(Dec. 4) Australia is suffering from its worst drought in a century, leading to a downward revision of the citrus crop estimate by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

The USDA forecast for Australian citrus production in 2007-08 is 450,000 metric tons, up slightly from 2006-07 but down from the five-year average of 512,000 metric tons.

Australia’s navel oranges are exported to the U.S. during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer.

The USDA said Australia’s exports to all countries for 2007-08 may total about 105,000 metric tons, down from about 115,000 metric tons metric tons this year.

DRY HEAT

In a report issued in November, the USDA said dry conditions have reduced supplies of irrigation water to Australia’s inland citrus operations.

The USDA reported that September brought below-average rainfall and above-average temperatures for South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.

Mark Hanks, director of sales and marketing for DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla., said company officials were traveling to Australia in December to assess the drought’s effect on fruit size. DNE is the exclusive marketer of Australian citrus in the U.S.

High demand spurred Australia’s exports to the U.S. this summer, but supply was limited because of frost.