Florida orange production gets slight bump

Florida orange production got a slight bounce Tuesday, with the February forecast up 3.7 percent from a January projection, according to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Still down 16.8 percent from the 2019-2020 growing season, Florida is forecast to produce enough oranges to fill 56 million 90-pound boxes, the industry standard.

"Today’s forecast gives us reason to be cautiously optimistic as we proceed through the remainder of the season," said Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus. "We are hopeful growers will be able to harvest as much of the Valencia crop as possible with minimal drop in the months to come."

Valencia oranges are expected to make up more than 60 percent of the orange crop harvested through June. The industry, struggling against residential and commercial development, foreign imports, and citrus greening, an incurable bacterial disease, has seen an uptick in consumption of orange juice tied to the belief that a compound found in oranges called hesperidin provides a layer of protection from respiratory illnesses.

To capitalize on the surge, the Florida Citrus Commission in October voted to increase a tax that growers pay on each box of oranges to help cover a $9.8 million global marketing campaign. About 95 percent of Florida’s orange crop, still the largest in the nation, is processed into juice.

Projected grapefruit production in Tuesday’s report remained at 4.6 million boxes, off 5.15 percent from the 2019-2020 harvest.

The forecast of specialty crops, primarily tangerines, and tangelos dipped slightly from 1.1 million boxes in January to 1.05 million boxes in the new projections.

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