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Report: Production from Florida’s citrus industry fell in June

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(The Center Square) — A new report shows that Florida’s citrus industry’s production is down considerably after being ravaged by hurricanes and disease.

The latest Economic and Market Research report from Florida Citrus shows that total orange juice sales, as of June 2023, have fallen by 11.6% compared to the previous year, while the price has increased by 12.3%.

The Florida citrus report also shows the stark difference between seasons for orange juice yields. For the four weeks ending mid-June 2023, Florida growers produced 25.1 million gallons of orange juice, including frozen, reconstituted and blended varieties.

For the same period in 2022, a total of 29.4 million gallons of orange juice was produced, a 14.5% drop for the current season.

According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, during the 2021-22 citrus season Florida produced 41.2 million boxes of oranges. However, the 2022-23 season is projected to produce 15.9 million boxes of oranges.

The USDA report data shows that during the 2018-19 season, there were 49.7 million fruit-bearing trees, yielding around 813 fruit per tree for non-Valencia varieties, 213 per tree for navel oranges and 608 per tree for Valencia.

In comparison, the 2022-23 season forecasts project that there are now around 43.9 million fruit-bearing trees, with yields for non-Valencia varieties at 474 fruit per tree, 106 per tree for navel and 323 per tree for Valencia.

Hurricanes and disease are two major factors for declining yields in fruit and by extension, orange juice. In September 2022, Hurricane Ian ripped through 375,000 acres of citrus groves. The cost to growers is an estimated $675 million, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Approximately $65 million has been appropriated for research and to replace damaged trees.

Meanwhile, citrus greening — which is a disease that can kill the tree and its fruit — has spread throughout the Florida citrus groves and the effect is fewer yields every year. Also known as yellow dragon disease, a disease-carrying insect spreads citrus greening — the Asian citrus psyllid — and there is no cure once a tree is infected.

Infected trees produce bitter, green fruit that cannot be sold or used for juice. The disease is also prevalent in California, Georgia, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands and threatens the entire U.S. citrus industry.

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