Florida Citrus Estimate Escapes Hit From Hurricane Matthew

For the last decade-plus, Florida growers have been in a pitched battle with citrus greening, not to mention other pests and diseases. One element they have not had to contend with is a major hurricane, until Matthew came along last month.

Although the season’s first forecast from USDA came days after Hurricane Matthew raked the eastern side of the Sunshine State, the storm’s impacts weren’t factored into the numbers. However, the updated estimate was tallied well after Matthew’s departure. And surprisingly, it shows an increase in production output.

According to the latest USDA forecast, Florida’s all-orange estimate is 72 million boxes. That figure is up 2 million boxes from last month’s opening estimate.

The breakdown from USDA for November is as follows: 36 million boxes of early, midseason, Navel, and Temple varieties; plus 36 million boxes of Valencias.

According to Mark Hudson, State Statistician at USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service Florida Field Office, the reason for the increase was due to a decrease in projected fruit droppage. October’s projection included a 32% drop in non-Valencias and 31% in Valencia, both extraordinarily high figures. For November, that projection was tempered to 27% fruit drop (still high).

Regarding Hurricane Matthew, Hudson said there was no reason to adjust the numbers based on “what we saw and heard in the field.”

Mirroring last month’s guesstimate, the overall grapefruit count came in at 9.6 million boxes.

USDA will release updates to the forecast monthly until the season ends in July. The next update will be released Dec. 9.