Lowest Florida Orange Crop in 53 Years Predicted

A projected 26 percent decline in Florida’s new orange crop for the 2016-17 season will mean a tumultuous year ahead for Florida citrus growers and orange juice consumers.

Kissimmee-based citrus consultant Elizabeth Steger on Wednesday 10 August predicted Florida orange growers will produce just 60.5 million boxes of oranges in the new season, which begins in October, down from 81.5 million boxes in 2015-16. Steger’s widely watched estimate is generally considered the first statistically reliable indicator of the upcoming season’s orange crop.

If Steger’s estimate proves accurate, it will be the lowest Florida orange crop in 53 years since 54.9 million boxes harvested in the 1963-64 season. The next lowest crop was 57.79 million orange boxes in 1949-50.

The Steger prediction shows Florida growers continue to lose the fight against citrus greening. In addition, the fungal disease called “postbloom fruit drop” hit the late-season Valencia orange crop hard during the spring.

Florida citrus officials consider greening as the primary factor behind the 66 percent drop in the state’s orange harvest from 242 million boxes in the 2003-04 season, the last non-hurricane season before the disease’s 2005 discovery in the state.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will release its first official crop estimate Oct. 12.

Among the possible consequences if the Steger estimate comes close to the official count:

  • A global orange juice shortage beginning in the spring as the smaller Florida crop combines with a 14 percent decline in the orange crop in Brazil, the world’s largest OJ producer, for its 2016-17 season.
  • Record-high farm prices to orange growers. But prices may not rise high enough to compensate for fewer boxes to sell and increased grove expenses to fight greening.
  • As much as a 5 percent hike in the average retail price of OJ products if, in fact, the state’s juice processors, who buy 95 percent of the annual orange crop, push next season’s farm prices to record levels in response to fruit shortages.
  • A continuing decline in U.S. orange juice sales as consumers respond to higher prices by purchasing less OJ.

Click here to read more at The Ledger.

Source: Fresh Plaza

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