Overall U.S. citrus production is forecast to increase this upcoming season on all varieties except for Florida and California grapefruit and Florida tangerines.

UPDATED: USDA predicts higher citrus production

Doug Ohlemeier

U.S. citrus production is expected to increase this upcoming season on most varieties except for grapefruit like these Florida grapefruit photographed in late September.

In the season’s first official citrus forecast, the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Oct. 8 predicted production increases for most early, midseason, navels and later season valencia oranges, a small decline in overall grapefruit and higher specialty fruit production because of an expected increase in California tangerines but slightly fewer Florida tangerines.

For Florida overall, the USDA is projecting below-average fruit size on all varieties with navels — which ship primarily fresh — experiencing the smallest fruit size on record.

Florida is forecast to produce 146 million equivalent boxes of oranges, 9% higher than last year’s 136 million boxes. Agriculture statisticians attribute the increase to more valencias.

While California valencia production is predicted to decline a little, it is forecast to produce more early, midseason and navels and thus increase its overall orange output 60.5 million boxes, up 9.1% from last season’s 55 million boxes.

Florida grapefruit is expected to remain similar, with only a small increase in white grapefruit production. Texas is forecast to increase slightly and statisticians have also lowered California production by less than a million cartons.

For tangerines, Florida is forecast to increase a small percentage in the early fallglo and sunburst varieties but see a small decline in later season honey tangerines.

The USDA reports California growers will increase their tangerine packings 30% from 7 million boxes to 10 million boxes.

Kevin Swords, Florida citrus sales manager for DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla., said the report should be encouraging for promotions.

A late spring bloom followed an abnormally cold winter, and growers expect that to delay the sunburst tangerine harvest from late October to early November. Swords said packers will need to stretch the early fallglo season a little longer to fill a possible gap between the two varieties.

Also, with a possible delay of California’s season, Swords said Florida navels may find an opportunity.

“That little later crop will allow us to get more of a window and have more promotions in place for October,” he said. “We will have a good window and hope to be able to go into November with good promotional support.”

Swords said the early season should be favorable for retail promotions of 4- and 5-pound bags.

Lemon growers are also planning a 1-million-box increase in volume from California and Arizona.

For overall U.S. citrus, the USDA estimates 276 million equivalent boxes will be packed, up 6.5% from last year’s 258 million boxes and close to the deal’s 274 million box five-year production average.