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US (FL): USDA delivers December citrus crop forecast

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) now forecasts the 2013-2014 Florida orange crop at 121 million boxes, down 3 percent from its initial estimate in November.

The USDA estimated early-mid orange varieties at 56 million, down 2 million and Valencia at 65 million also down 2 million from November. The USDA blamed the decrease on fruit drop and smaller sizes.

"HLB continues to rear its ugly head and this decrease can be directly attributed to the stress caused by the disease," said Michael W. Sparks, executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. "This small crop size shows how damaging HLB, or citrus greening, can be and that growers are in a fight for their lives."

The USDA makes its initial estimate in October of each year and revises it monthly as the crop takes shape until the end of the season in July. However, the federal government shutdown delayed the initial estimate until Friday Nov. 8.

During the 2012-2013 season, Florida produced 133.6 million boxes of oranges.

The USDA's estimate of the 2013-2014 Florida grapefruit crop is now 16.7 million boxes down 1.1 million from November. Speciality fruit is now at 4.6 million boxes, down 150,000. The yield for frozen concentrate orange juice (FCOJ) is up slightly to 1.61 gallons per 90-pound box.

The Florida citrus industry creates a $9 billion annual economic impact, employing nearly 76,000 people, and covering about 550,000 acres. Founded in 1948, Florida Citrus Mutual is the state's largest citrus grower organization.

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