(Sept. 29, 3:22 p.m.) Florida citrus growers this past season produced more fruit but at a lower value than the previous year.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the $1.2 billion preliminary value of the 2007-08 citrus crop is down $287.2 million — 19% from the 2006-07 season. The 2006-07 season produced a record $1.5-billion-value crop.

The USDA attributed the decline in value to an overall lower per-box price and on-tree value.

Tangelos saw the biggest decline, losing 63% of their production value from the previous year while tangerines lost 20.5% of their value. All oranges sustained a 19.4% loss, while grapefruit saw a 6.7% decline.

Florida in 2007-08 produced 203.8 million equivalent boxes of all citrus, up 26% from 2006-07’s 162 million boxes. The production is higher than the past five years’ 201 million box average but considerably below the 281 million box 2000-04 average.

Grapefruit production, at 26.6 million boxes in 2007-08, is 2.2% less than 2006-07 while specialty fruit such as tangerines increased from 5.85 million boxes in 2006-07 to 7 million boxes in 2007-08.

Across the board, the percentage of fresh shipments declined. According to the USDA, the percentage of tangerines for the fresh market fell from 58% to 51% and fresh orange shipments declined from 5% to 3.5%.