Citrus production falls further in latest USDA forecasts

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Percent Citrus Florida

Citrus fruit production in the US is on a general low, largely as a
result of hurricane damage in Florida, according to the US
Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) December crop production

The latest figures, published on Friday, reveal dips in production estimates for oranges, grapefruit, tangelos, tangerines and temples, while papaya, pecan and sugarcane crop forecasts are also down.

With the impact of Hurricane Wilma taken into account, citrus production forecasts have dropped even further since the already low October figures, and with no carry-over supplies from last season, it looks likely that food manufacturers will not escape increased prices for citrus ingredients.

Whereas last season, low production for some fruits was subsidized with carry-over from the surplus stocks of the 2003-2004 season, the industry is now starting to see the effects of two poor harvests in a row.

For example, growers are currently already receiving 50-75 percent increased prices for their oranges. And with no supply buffer for the market this year, and with supply also down in Brazil, the world's largest producer of orange juice, prices are set to increase even further.

According to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NAAS), all orange forecast is down 12 percent from the previous forecast, but still 4 percent up on last season's utilization if 9.11 million tons. Florida's all orange production estimate is down 15 percent from the previous forecast, but up 8 percent form last year's crop.

The 2005-06 grapefruit crop forecast is 1.09 million tons, down 24 percent from October's pre-Hurricane Wilma forecast. Florida's grapefruit production is set at 680,000 tons, down 33 percent from the previous forecast, but still 25 percent above last year's hurricane-damaged crop.

The nation's all white grapefruits are down 43 percent from October, but 18 percent above last season's crop.

Tangelos are down 3 percent since October, and 23 percent from last year's crop, with smaller fruit sizes, reduced tree count and higher than average fruit drop all contributing to the reduced production forecast.

Tangerines are also down 3 percent from October, but still up 24 percent from last year.

Temples have also been hard hit, with production set at 36,000 tons, down 11 percent from the October forecast. If realized, this will be the lowest production since the 1954-55 season, with the exception of last year's hurricane-damaged crop.

However, citrus is not the only crop where production forecasts are low. The Hawaii fresh papaya crop is also down 8 percent from last month and 14 percent below a year ago, mainly as a result of unfavorable whether conditions.

Pecan production is set at 250 million pounds, 13 percent down from October but up 35 percent from last year's crop.

Production of sugarcane for sugar and seed in 2005 is forecast at 27 million tons, 5 percent below the November forecast and 7 percent below 2004. If realized, this would be the lowest production since 1980.

According to the report, most other crops are showing average to strong forecasts, including corn, sorghum, winter wheat, soybean, sunflowers and peanuts.

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