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Florida citrus farmers cautiously optimistic

The coming Florida citrus season is holding some promise. Hamlin juice orange grower Frank Stivender is waiting for his crop to mature for picking.  In the weeks to come, Florida's orange growers will get ready to harvest the first fruits of the season. Later this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will issue its first outlook for the 2021-22 season.

The 2020-21 orange harvest topped out at 52.8 million boxes, down from 67.4 million boxes (one box equal to 90 pounds of fruit) in 2019-20. Even as the federal outlooks seem to dim by the year, growers on the ground continue to approach their legacy in citrus growing with cautious optimism.

Although 2020-21 marked one of the lowest harvests in recent memory, Florida Citrus Commission Chairman Steve Johnson said grove conditions are "encouraging" for the upcoming season. Growers think their crop this year is more resilient against the diseases that have caused recent production declines.

Year-over-year orange production in Florida has increased only four times in the 16 years since citrus greening was discovered in the state, according to USDA data. While local growers await their harvests, citrus researchers remain committed to the long-term survival of Florida citrus.


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