Florida Citrus Industry Sees Worst Growing Season In Over 70 Years

Jun 12, 2018

The Florida citrus industry has experienced its worst harvest season since World War II as it continues to recover from Hurricane Irma.   

Orange production is off more than 34 percent from the last growing season, according to the News Service of Florida, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest forecast numbers show no improvement in that figure over the last month. 

Grapefruit production, meanwhile, continued to decline in May. The season has produced just 3.88 million similar-sized boxes of grapefruits, less than one-tenth the amount produced 20 years ago. 

The historically low yields come after Hurricane Irma destroyed up to 70 percent of some citrus groves and caused more than $760 million in industry losses as the season was just beginning in September. The industy has also continued to battle the deadly disease known as citrus greening. 

"This brings a very difficult season to a close," Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Deparment of Citrus, said in a prepared statement. "We look forward to a quiet, resilient season in the fall." 

The drop in production translates to a decrease in the citrus industry's economic contributions to the state.  A study by the University of Florida released last year found that the industry's economic impact of $8.6 billion was a decline of 31 percent in the last four years. 

Citrus farmers are now expected to receive a $340 million block grant from the federal government to stem the decline and help them rebuild their groves.