The projected crop for Florida grapefruits was dropped by over 10% in USDA’s March estimate. USDA reduced the 2014-15 projected Florida grapefruit crop by 2 million boxes to 13 million boxes, a 13% drop from its March estimate and one that will produce the smallest crop in a season unaffected by hurricanes since 1935-36.
The current estimate puts the state’s grapefruit crop just above the 12.8 million boxes Florida growers produced in the 2004-05 season, when three hurricanes swept through the state’s citrus belt and knocked most of that crop off the trees. Before that, the lowest crop was 11.5 million boxes produced in 1935-36.
Growers blamed citrus greening for the crop reduction as farmers report that trees are producing fewer grapefruit that are smaller in size. Smaller sizes result in more fruit needed to fill the standard field box, thus reducing the total harvest.
Florida, which had been the world’s largest grapefruit producer until greening surfaced in 2005, has been surpassed by China as the leading grapefruit producer at least since the 2009-10 season with most of its crop filling domestic demand.
USDA also dropped the state’s frozen concentrated orange juice yield forecast. The season estimate is now for 1.54 gallons per box at 42 degrees Brix, down 1% from the March forecast and 2% from last season’s final yield of 1.57 gallons per box. The projected orange crop remained at 102 million boxes.
To combat the greening in Florida, the citrus industry is looking for $18 million inserted into the 2015-16 budget for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to support research, to grow clean citrus stock and to remove and replant diseased trees.