Florida Citrus Group Disagrees with Latest USDA Crop Estimate

USDA’s initial estimate of the 2017-2018 Florida citrus crop is well above the crop Florida Citrus Mutual predicts based on grower survey it conducted following Irma.

In a written statement, Florida Citrus Mutual says the USDA report doesn’t accurately account for the full extent of damage from Hurricane Irma.

“I’m disappointed the USDA did not delay the traditional October crop estimate until more data could be collected to fully assess the damage wrought by Irma,” said Michael Sparks, FCM executive vice president and CEO, in a prepared statement. “Irma hit us just a month ago, and although we respect the skill and professionalism of the USDA, there is no way they can put out a reliable number in that short time period.”

Adam Putman, Florida’s commissioner of agriculture, said Irma’s path through Florida couldn’t have been more lethal to the citrus crop and that quantifying damage will take longer.

“I am concerned that today’s forecast does not accurately estimate the damages to our industry, given that groves are still under water and fruit is still dropping from trees. It’s important to recognize that the damage to Florida citrus is still unfolding, and will continue to for some time,” Putnam said.

Putnam says Florida citrus sustained more than $760 million in damage due to Irma.

Sept. 10, Irma hit hard Florida’s major citrus-growing region with sustained winds well over 100 mph, blowing fruit off the trees with widespread tree damage.

The FCM’s post-Irma grower survey leads the group to estimate total fruit loss at more than 50 percent with some reports of 100 percent fruit loss in the Southwest part of the state.

The USDA makes its first citrus estimate in October each year, and the estimate will be revised monthly until the end of the season in July.

Currently, the USDA’s total orange forecast is for 54 million boxes, made up of 23 million early and midseason and 31 million boxes of Valencias. The total grapefruit forecast is for 4.9 million boxes, with whites at 900,000 and colored at 4 million boxes. Total specialty comes in at 1 million boxes.

The FMC survey predicts the 2017-2018 orange crop will be closer to 31 million boxes.

“The long-term effect of Irma on our industry will take years to sort out,” Sparks said. “We had groves underwater and those trees aren’t just going to bounce back and continue producing fruit. They are gone.”

Source: Brad Haire, Southeast Farm Press

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