State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam wants another $8.5 million next year to help fight a deadly citrus disease, as Florida’s orange crop was forecast Friday to hit a 52-year low in the upcoming season.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicted that Florida’s signature crop will fill the equivalent of 80 million 90-pound boxes, a 17 percent drop from 96.8 million boxes collected during the 2014-2015 growing season.
Production has declined from a peak of 244 million boxes during the 1997-1998 season.
The money requested next year for citrus-disease research is part of $18.7 million Putnam wants from lawmakers for the citrus industry, which has a projected $10.7 billion impact on the state economy.
Tom Spreen, emeritus professor of agricultural economics at the University of Florida, was surprised by the forecast but agrees it would be a boon for prices. “My first thought was shock because I had no idea the orange number would be this low,” Spreen said.
“My second thought is that this is a positive sign for prices. With the large juice inventories being held by processors having a negative effect on prices entering the new season, a decrease of close to 20 percent in the Florida crop means juice availability this season will probably be down, and this fact will support grower prices.”
Orange-juice futures had their largest daily gain since June following the government forecast.
Frozen concentrated orange juice for November delivery rose 4.8% to end at $1.159 a pound on the ICE Futures U.S. exchange, the largest daily gain for the most-active contract since June 8.
The estimate of the 2015-2016 Florida grapefruit crop is 12.3 million boxes. Specialty fruit checked in at 2.2 million boxes. The yield for frozen concentrate orange juice is 1.61 gallons per 90-pound box.