Florida on pace for smallest orange crop in over 75 years

FILE – Oranges ripen in a grove in Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, in Plant City, Fla. Sixteen years after their legal battle began, around 18,000 homeowners in central Florida area will be paid over $42 million collectively by Florida’s agriculture agency for destroying their citrus trees during a state effort to eradicate a harmful citrus disease. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara, File)

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida is on pace to produce the smallest crop of oranges in more than 75 years, according to a forecast released this month.

The Sunshine State is on pace to produce 44.5 million 90-pound boxes of oranges during the current season, according to a forecast released last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That is a 1.5 million box reduction from the previous forecast in December.

If the current forecast holds true through the rest of the citrus growing season, it will be the smallest orange crop since the 1944-1945 season when the state produced 42.3 million boxes of oranges. The citrus growing season in Florida lasts from fall into late spring.

With that small a crop, California will surpass Florida in orange production for the first time in recent years.

“The disappointment of another decline in the forecast is hard to overstate. But so too is the determination of Florida’s citrus growers who remain focused on delivering great-tasting and high-quality fruit while – simultaneously – seeking new solutions to citrus greening,” said Shelley Rossetter, assistant director of global marketing at the Florida Department of Citrus, in a statement.

Florida’s orange production has been on a quarter century slide due to citrus greening, a bacteria that can cause massive fruit drops and eventually kill citrus trees, as well as another disease which can cause the leaves and fruit of citrus trees to drop prematurely and create unappealing lesions on the fruit.

The January forecast for grapefruit remained unchanged from the previous month at 4.1 million boxes.