Florida citrus growers began their season producing more oranges but slightly fewer grapefruit and tangerines.

The latest Florida citrus estimate shows increases in late season valencias and early and midseason oranges.

According to an Dec. 9  U.S. Department of Agriculture report, the state increased shipments of valencias from 73 million equivalent boxes to 75 million boxes, and early and midseason varieties increased from 74 million to 75 million cartons.

Early and midseason oranges begin harvesting in October and bear bigger volume in January and February before late season valencias start in late February and early March. Florida’s navel deal typically ends in late December.

On grapefruit, a 2,000 equivalent carton drop in the white variety helped push grapefruit production down from 20.1 million equivalent cartons to 19.4 million cartons. Colored grapefruit production declined from 14.5 million cartons to 14 million cartons.

Tangerine production decreased from 4.7 million cartons to 4.5 million cartons. Early tangerines, such as fallglos and sunbursts, fell from 2.5 million boxes down to 2.4 million.

Honey tangerines, which begin shipments in early to mid-January, declined to 2.1 million cartons from 2.2 million cartons.

Tangelo production remained unchanged at 1.1 million cartons.

Mike Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual, said the season so far has progressed as the industry expected.

“This increase wasn’t altogether unexpected and we are still comfortable with the USDA’s production estimates and the size of the crop,” he said in a news release. “Grower returns are firming up and at the current levels they are helping offset the high production costs we are experiencing due to pest and disease.” 

While 95% of the state’s oranges ship to processed channels, about 70% of its navels, half of its grapefruit and two-thirds of its tangerines ship fresh.