The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its citrus forecast for the 2010–2011 growing season, estimating Florida will produce 146 million boxes of oranges, a nine percent increase from last season.
The total for all oranges, including Florida, Texas and California, is expected to be about 208 million boxes, an increase from 191 million boxes last year, but well below the 2008–2009 season as well as previous seasons dating back to 2003–2004.
This forecast is within the range that most Highlands County growers were expecting and they were generally pleased, said Ray Royce, president of the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association.
"We will see a 10 to 13 percent increase in Highlands County," Royce predicted. "We have very productive groves."
It's a crop size that is very marketable, he said.
"I think it is a crop that will allow growers to see a good price," he said. But consumers shouldn't see any significant increases in the grocery stores, he said.
Growers had a big bloom in the spring so the they figured this crop would be larger, said Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president and CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual.
"This number is not a surprise," Sparks said Friday in a Florida Citrus Mutual news release. Recognizing growers were sitting on lower orange juice inventories, Sparks said, he hoped that even with a larger crop, the market will continue to put upward pressure on grower returns.
The USDA makes its initial forecast in October and then revises it monthly until the end of the season in July, the news release stated.
The USDA predicted Florida would harvest 20 million boxes of grapefruit in '10-'11, down slightly from the 20.3 million boxes it produced last year.
The agency's forecast stated early and midseason varieties in Florida are projected at 69 million boxes and Valencia oranges are projected to hit 77 million boxes this season. "For Florida specialty fruit, the USDA predicted 1.1 million boxes of tangelos and 4.5 million boxes of tangerines," the news release stated. "The yield for 'from concentrate orange juice' (frozen concentrate) is expected to be 1.61 gallons per 90-pound box.
"The Florida citrus industry creates a $9 billion annual economic impact, employing nearly 76,000 people, and covering more than 569,000 acres. "Founded in 1948 and currently representing nearly 8,000 grower members, Florida Citrus Mutual is the state's largest citrus grower organization."
Visit www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Florida/Publ... for the complete USDA estimate. For more information, visit www.flcitrusmutual.com.
Highlands Today reporter Joe Seelig can be reached at 863-386-5834 or email@example.com