Florida’s citrus industry ended its growing season on a slight uptick, regaining its dominance in orange production over California.
Growers, who last year posted 75-year lows because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma, still are at diminished production levels that hadn’t been seen in decades as they face deadly citrus-greening disease and factors such as the expansion of development into rural areas and changes in national drinking habits.
The final count for the 2018-2019 growing season was 71.6 million 90-pound boxes of oranges, 4.51 million boxes of grapefruit and 990,000 boxes of specialty fruit, which are mostly tangerines and tangelos, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday. The industry’s standard measurement is 90-pound boxes.
A June forecast had estimated 71.4 million boxes of oranges for the season. Overall, the new numbers reflect a nearly 59 percent increase in oranges from the 2017-2018 season, when the total was 45.05 million boxes, and a 4 percent increase in oranges from the 2016-2017 season. The production in 2016-2017 sunk to a level last seen during World War II.
Grapefruit is down nearly 42 percent from two years ago, while specialty crops are off almost 39 percent in the same time. Before Irma, the state’s grapefruit production hadn’t been below 5 million boxes since the 1918-1919 season.
Still, the numbers announced Thursday were greeted somewhat positively by the Florida Department of Citrus.