USDA Predicts Record Orange Crop
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Florida grapefruit growers got some welcome news today when the first citrus forecast of the season predicted lower production than last year’s record crop.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture figures held no surprises for orange growers, expected to produce another record crop.
The plentiful pickings of recent years have depressed prices for growers.
Florida farmers are expected to grow 254 million boxes of oranges, more than last year’s record of 226.2 million boxes, according to the USDA forecast. The grapefruit crop was estimated at 54 million boxes, compared with last year’s record of 55.8 million. Each box weighs roughly 90 pounds.
``Grapefruit was the bright spot,″ said Lisa Blackman, spokeswoman for Florida Citrus Mutual in Lakeland, Fla. ``We are hoping the sales organizations boost wholesale prices to boost grower returns.″
Grapefruit prices averaged $1.23 per box last season, down from $2.14 per box in 1995-1996. Orange prices averaged $3.87 per box last season, down from $4.68 per box in the previous season.
The average price for oranges was the lowest in two years. Grapefruit had the lowest average price in more than 20 years. Most of Florida’s oranges are used for juice, while almost half of Florida’s grapefruit are shipped abroad.
The citrus season starts in October with grapefruit picking and continues through June when the last of the Valencia oranges are harvested.