One thing is clear: Florida's all orange forecast will be down in the 2017-2018 season. The real question is, "by how much?"
USDA's 2017-2018 Florida all orange forecast is at 54.0 million boxes, 21% less than last season's final production. The total includes 23.0 million boxes of non-Valencia oranges (early, midseason, and Navel varieties) and 31.0 million boxes of Valencia oranges. However, these projections did not take recent hurricanes into consideration.
Meanwhile, few Florida citrus growers expressed confidence in USDA's initial crop forecast. The report stated USDA had completed surveying the state's citrus crop before Hurricane Irma hit and did not change its numbers. Without a recount, nobody really knows how much fruit the trees held before the storm and how much remains after the storm, according to Florida Citrus Mutual, reported The Ledger (Oct. 13).
“I would suspect the crop will be a little lighter than that,” Mark Wheeler, a Lake Placcid-based grower, said of the USDA estimate. “I don’t think we’re down to 30 million now. I don’t think we’re at 54 million. That’s not to say we won’t get to 30 million.”
In total, crop losses from Hurricane Irma topped $2.5 billion in Florida, according to Florida's Agriculture Commissioner and local farmers. Losses were reported for oranges, peanuts, avocadoes, sugar, strawberries and tomatoes. The storm affected milk production and lobster and stone crab fishing as well, reported CBS News (Oct. 12).
Only time will tell what is in store for the Florida orange crop. Stay tuned to the Food Institute for the latest updates.