The Phoenix Flyer

Citrus declines: FL orange and grapefruit production down; specialty citrus up by 2 percent

By: - October 12, 2021 1:50 pm

Florida oranges, the state’s signature crop, have recently battled citrus greening. Photo from Florida Citrus Commission

In a citrus crop forecast released Tuesday, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried mentioned a startling number for Florida’s peak citrus production: 244 million boxes in the 1997-98 season.

Some 25 years later, the citrus forecast shows much lower numbers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast reported 47  million boxes of Florida oranges for the 2021-22 season — down 11 percent (52.8 million boxes) from last season, and 3.8 million boxes for grapefruit — down 8 percent (4.1 million boxes), according to a news release on the forecast.

Of the specialty crops such as tangerines, the forecast reported 900,000 boxes, up from 2 percent (890,000) from last season.

Here’s the USDA’s final 2020-21 citrus forecast.

The Florida Phoenix has followed the citrus challenges, including a deadly epidemic of citrus greening, an imported bacterial infection spread by an Asian insect.

Citrus greening, found in groves around the world, broke out in south Florida in 2005 and quickly spread throughout the state’s citrus zones, slashing production by about two-thirds: from 240 million 90-pound boxes a year to a little over 70 million boxes.

Still, Fried said in a statement that Tuesday’s forecast ‘is a testament to the resilience of Florida’s citrus growers, our state’s dedication to our proud citrus industry, and our department’s commitment to innovation in the face of ongoing challenges.”

She added: Citrus is Florida’s signature crop, full of heart-healthy and immune-boosting vitamins and nutrients that consumers demand as we continue the fight against COVID-19. We remain committed to supporting our citrus producers with research, technology, and techniques to fight the spread of citrus greening.”

For the 2022-23 state budget, which will be put together by lawmakers during the 2022 legislative session, Fried has requested $15.6 million to support Florida citrus production, health, and research, among other initiatives.

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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.