The smallest orange harvest on record was predicted Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a stunning reversal for growers that is largely linked to citrus greening, state agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam said.
“Now is the time to put all the resources we can toward fighting citrus greening,” Putnam said. "We must do what we can to save Florida’s signature crop."
The USDA revised its estimate for the 2014-15 season to 103 million boxes of oranges, roughly a 5 percent decline from the last forecast in 2014 that anticipated 108 million boxes. The new forecast is 1.6 million fewer boxes than in 2013-14, which was the lowest on record.
The state citrus industry generates $9 billion annually and supports 76,000 jobs. The decline is 60 percent since the peak of citrus production at 254 million boxes in 1997-98. The state has spent $230 million in the past decade for citrus greening research.
Putnam said he is requesting an additional $18 million from the state this year to continue in-depth research, grow clean citrus stock, and replant where diseased trees have been removed.”
Doug Ackerman, head of the Department of Citrus, said the numbers by the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service were not totally unexpected. The Citrus Department budgeted for the current season on an initial estimate of 100 million boxes. The 2013-14 crop produced 104.6 million boxes.
“The reduced forecast is consistent with anecdotal reports we’ve heard as we travel the state, and the new numbers are still well within the range we have planned for here at the Department," Ackerman said. "The growers are focused, and so are we.”