TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Florida’s citrus farmers are hoping for a better second half of the growing season after the latest decline in projections for the state’s orange and grapefruit harvest.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said a 4 percent drop from February to March in the forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is another sign of the effects of deadly citrus greening disease.
“Until a long-term solution is discovered, which some of our state’s brightest minds are working on, we must support Florida’s multibillion-dollar citrus industry and the more than 60,000 jobs it supports,” Putnam said in a statement.
Putnam is asking lawmakers to include money in next year’s state budget as part of the continuing battle against citrus greening.
The March crop forecast, released Thursday, showed the state on pace to produce enough oranges to fill 67 million 90-pound boxes during the current crop season. That is down from a February projection of 70 million boxes.
Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus, noted that two-thirds of the reduction is based on early and mid-season varieties that have already been harvested.
“While news of a decrease is never welcome, the sweet scent of citrus blossoms floating on the breeze brings back fond memories and reminds us that spring is a time of renewal,” Shepp said in a statement. “Growers are optimistic that the strategies they are implementing now will pay off in the future and that, as an industry, we will overcome.”
The state once produced enough oranges to fill more than 200 boxes a year. Meanwhile, grapefruit production dropped from 9 million 90-pound boxes in February to 8.9 million boxes in the March forecast. The outlook for grapefruit started the current season at 9.6 million boxes, down from 10.8 million boxes filled in 2015-2016.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.