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California Citrus Crop Tops Florida In 2017

July 17,2107-

Value Is Double That Of Sunshine State

California citrus production is now ahead of the Sunshine State of Florida, USDA figures show.

Florida has been hard-hit by deadly citrus greening disease for years now, taking its toll on the state’s sprawling orange groves.

Today Florida citrus volume is half what it was decade ago and is down one third from 2014/15.

In their latest forecast released in July 2017, USDA says the 2016/2017 citrus crop is expected to total 95 million boxes from California while Florida’s a shrinking citrus crop, all varieties, will end up around 79 million cartons.

Screen Shot 2017-07-17 at 1.10.16 PMTen years ago Florida’s oranges come in at 147 million boxes. In 1998 it was around 250 million boxes.

Tonnage Tells The Tale

In 1998/99 Florida’s citrus tonnage was 10.8 million tons. California produced just 2.3 million tons that year.

Flash forward to 2014/15 Florida produced 5 mil/ tons while California came in at 3.7  mil/ tons. Last year the race was nearly a dead heat. In 2015/16 Florida edged out California 4.2 to 4 mil/tons.

When the tonnage is weighed later this year California should be some 10% ahead of Florida, based the USDA box estimate.

It is not just Florida’s orange trees that have suffered. Grapefruit production in Florida has tanked as well, from 27.2 million boxes in 2006 to 7.8 million boxes in 2016.

Consumption Down

Consumption of grapefruit has declined across the US says USDA as the fruit appears to have fallen out of favor.Per capita consumption has declined from 25 lbs in 1978 to just under 6 lbs in 2013.

Likewise for orange juice where sales are down 13% in the past four years, according to data from Nielsen.

Meanwhile, California’s non-Valencia production has surged past Florida while the Valencia crop in both states is down. California non-Valencia oranges in 2016/17 is forecast at 40 million boxes, down from 2015/16 at 47 million boxes while Florida’s non-Valencia crop has declined from just under 50 million boxes in 2014/15 to 35.7 million boxes expected this year.

Where California citrus production has surged is in the popular tangerine category that ten year ago were a minor 3.6 million box crop increasing to 18.7 million cartons by 2014/15 and 24 million boxes forecast this year.

Florida has a small and declining tangerine crop,1.6 million boxes.

The California tangerine crop seems to be climbing 10% a year, fed in-part by massive marketing of easy-peel varieties and new plantings gaining maturity.

Acres of tangerines are on the grow in California, now near 60,000 acres, half of what the navel orange acreage is in the state.Kern and Tulare County each have around 20,000 acres.

California has a big lead over Florida, not in acreage but in the value of the tangy fruit. In 2015/16 California citrus had a value of $2.1 billion compared to the Florida citrus crop valued at $1 billion. That is largely due the fact that most of the Florida crop goes to juice while most of the California crop is for fresh eating. In Florida there was 435,300 bearing acres in 2015/16 compared to 270,00 acres in California the same year.

That makes California citrus per acre more than 3X as valuable.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam commented in the state’s press that the state needs to keep fighting citrus greening, which he equated to being “like a biblical plague” spreading across the state’s groves.

“The future of Florida citrus, and the tens of thousands of jobs it supports, is wholly dependent on the discovery of a silver bullet in the fight against greening,” Putnam said in a prepared statement. “Florida’s brightest minds are making progress toward a solution, but until then, we must continue to support our growers and provide them every tool available to combat this devastating disease.”

California citrus farmers are also fighting the spread of citrus greening – now found in southern California residential areas but yet to visit the commercial groves of the Central Valley.

The State Of California recently approved $10 million in state funding to fight the disease and the pest that spreads it. Authorized by Governor Brown, public monies will augment the nearly $25 million currently spent each year by the citrus industry. In addition to this $10 million, the committee will also receive $2.34 million in grant money from the federal side.

In San Diego County there is now new emphasis on removing abandoned citrus groves where the pest may multiple with little notice.


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