Florida citrus acreage has fallen to its lowest level in years.

A report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows total Florida citrus acreage for the 2008-09 season at 568,814 acres, down 7,763 acres or 1.3% from the 2007-08 season.

The acreage is considerably lower than the historical yearly acreage averages during the 1990s and early 2000s which ranged from 715,000-816,000 acres.

Florida citrus acreage continues to decline

Doug Ohlemeier

Al Finch, vice president of sales and marketing for Diversified Citrus Marketing, Lake Hamilton, Fla., the marketing arm of the Dundee, Fla.-based Dundee Citrus Growers Association, inspects some fallglo tangerines in mid-September. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports Florida citrus acreage has fallen to historically low levels with tangerines and grapefruit seeing the biggest acreage declines.

Agriculture statisticians in the Sept. 18 survey say the elimination and removal of trees infected by citrus canker and greening disease contributed to the gross loss of 19,918 acres.

While acreage has fallen, new plantings of 12,155 acres remain above the yearly averages of the 2006 and 2008 surveys and partially offset the gross loss, the USDA reports.

Acreage of grapefruit and specialty fruit such as tangerines is down 54% from the 2000 survey with orange acreage down by 26%.

According to the USDA, grapefruit acreage has fallen 5.3% to a new low of 53,863 acres, which represents only 60% of the state’s pre-hurricanes acreage. White seedless grapefruit has lost the most, losing 10% of its acreage since the last survey.

Specialty fruit acreage continues its decline and is reported at 22,422 acres, a fifth of the record 101,615 acres in 1970.

The 2009-10 season’s first citrus forecast is scheduled for Oct. 9.

Read the full report here.