Florida Orange Year
The 2020-21 citrus growing season fell short of expectations. The USDA says that Florida growers produced 52.8 million boxes of oranges this season.
The original projection for the season forecast Florida’s yearly production at around 57 million boxes - more than 4 million boxes more than what growers eventually produced.
Much of the issue remains the HLB or Greening Disease which is widely studied but still not curable when bacterial disease hits Florida citrus orchards.
The Asian Citrus Psyllid responsible for the disease was spotted in Florida groves more than 2 decades ago.
“The first real sighting of the psyllid was in 1997 and the state was picking more than 200 million boxes of the fruit each year. By the time Greening really started to affect the state, Florida was producing 150 million boxes in 2005.
The 2020-21 yield is down nearly 22% from the previous year when 67.4 million boxes were produced in the 2019-20 season. That number was also a drop from the 2018-19 season when 71.85 million boxes were produced.
This year’s mark is the lowest since the 2017-18 season, which saw just over 45 million boxes produced as citrus farmers recovered from Hurricane Irma’s impact.
Fresh Plaza.com notes that Florida growers have also struggled for years against residential and commercial development, foreign imports, and changes in beverage consumption habits.
Florida Citrus Commission Chairman Steve Johnson has said the future looks brighter with next season’s crop on the trees and the conditions in the groves looking encouraging.
And an increase in consumer interest in orange juice during the COVID-19 pandemic is another reason orange growers may be optimistic.