USDA forecasts smaller citrus crop this season

Prices for noncitrus fruit were higher in October 2002 than a year ago, with smaller apple and pear crops helping push the grower price index to average 2 percent above last year. In contrast, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says the new citrus crop is starting the 2002/03 season with lower prices.

The small size of the fresh citrus marketed from California has held prices lower than a year ago for September and October.

The 2002/03 citrus crop is projected to total 15 million short tons, 9 percent less than last season, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As a result of the expected smaller crop, growers are likely to receive higher prices for their product. An expected 14 percent decline in Florida citrus crops is driving the overall decline for the 2002/03 season.

California's and Arizona's orange crops are projected to reach 2.4 million short tons, 13 percent more than last season and potentially the largest since 1997/98. Texas' orange crop is forecast to be 8 percent smaller than last season and 28 percent smaller than two seasons ago.

Early projections put Florida's orange crop at 8.9 million short tons, 14 percent below a season ago. The lower production this season was due to drought this past winter during the tree bloom. Wetter weather during the summer helped fruit mature faster and resulted in larger than average oranges. The bigger fruit helped offset some of the loss involume.

USDA's Economic Research Service estimates that 1.2 billion single-strength equivalent (SSE) gallons of orange juice will be produced this year, the lowest since 1993/94.

Grapefruit production for 2002/03 only will reach about 2.2 million tons, the smallest crop since the freeze in 1989/90. The number grapefruit-bearing acres and trees have both declined in Florida, the major producer.

The forecast for the 2002/03-lemon crop is 904,000 tons, 9 percent above last season. Florida's tangerine crop, on the other hand, is estimated to be 21 percent lower.

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