USDA Issues Final Citrus Estimate: Worst Crop Since 1936

USDA Issues Final Citrus Estimate: Worst Crop Since 1936
Jul 18, 2023

The USDA has released its final crop estimate forecasting 5.85 million boxes of oranges for the 2022-2023 harvest season. That's an increase of 100,000 boxes from June. It was the lowest harvest since 1936.

“We've closed the door on a difficult season," said Matt Joyner, CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual.

Additionally, the USDA forecasted 1.81 million boxes of grapefruit, a 10,000 box decrease from the June forecast, and 480,000 boxes of tangerines and tangelos, a 10,000 box decrease from last month.

Hurricanes and Citrus Greening Disease

According to UF|IFAS, Hurricane Ian’s path touched roughly 375,000 acres of citrus groves across the Sunshine State. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimates Hurricane Ian inflicted up to $675 million in damages to Florida's citrus growers.

Prior to the hurricanes of 2022, Florida's citrus groves were already struggling to combat Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening. Greening was introduced to Florida in 2005 by an invasive pest, the Asian citrus psyllid. Since 2005, citrus greening has spread to all commercial groves in Florida. Trees with greening decline in health over time, produce fewer, smaller fruits and ultimately die. As a result, Florida’s citrus industry has been decimated by citrus greening.

The citrus industry produced 244 million boxes of oranges at its peak in 1997-98

At its peak during the 1997-98 season, the citrus industry produced 244 million boxes of oranges. The USDA's July forecast for the 2022-2023 season represents just 6.4% of the industry's peak production.

However, Florida Citrus Mutual CEO Joyner said they are hopeful for the future.

"There are so many reasons to be hopeful. We continue to see advancements in breeding towards HLB tolerant and resistant trees, and the new treatment methods to combat citrus greening are proving effective," said Joyner in a news release. "The state invested significantly this year to support continued research, development of new varieties and citrus marketing. Legislation to provide citrus growers with hurricane relief is moving through Congress with the help of Florida's Congressional delegation."

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