(July 13) ORLANDO, Fla. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture decreased its 2003-04 forecast for Florida orange production July 12 and maintained its estimate on grapefruit production.

The latest estimate is for 242 million 90-pound boxes of oranges and 40.8 million 85-pound boxes of grapefruit.

The latest orange estimate is 10 million boxes less than the first forecast of 252 million boxes in October and 3 million boxes less than the estimate of June 12.

Industry experts attribute the decrease to dry weather that has caused some fruit to drop from trees and produced smaller, less juicy oranges.

Low prices have also resulted in some growers leaving fruit on the tree, said Bob Terry of the Orlando-based Florida Agricultural Statistics Service.

The final grapefruit estimate was 200,000 boxes less than the original forecast of 41 million boxes.

Specialty fruit and tangerines finished at 8.9 million boxes or 400,000 boxes less than the initial forecast.

Orange prices on cartons of valencia shippers first grade 40-48s were $8-9 on July 13, a decrease of about $3 per box from a year ago.

Grapefruit prices on boxes of star ruby shippers first grade 23s were mostly $12-13 on July 13, while 27s were $15-17, representing about a $2 per carton increase from the same period in 2003.