The outlook for Florida’s embattled citrus industry grew a bit sweeter Friday with a slight increase in the crop estimate for the ongoing season.
However, the forecast is still at a longtime low for an industry besieged by citrus greening, a deadly disease that decreases production.
“As we reflect on what has been another tumultuous season for Florida citrus, we take heart in the fact that growers continue to produce high-quality, premium citrus at the current production levels,” Department of Citrus Executive Director Shannon Shepp said, in a prepared statement.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s monthly forecast for June predicted the Florida orange harvest at enough to fill 81.4 million, 90-pound boxes. The total is 300,000 boxes more than was forecast in May. The June figure is also 10.4 million boxes more than when an outlook was posted in March.
The outlook for grapefruit in Florida held at 10.85 million boxes under the latest forecast.
Despite the somewhat-improved forecast, an overall decline in production has forced the Department of Citrus, which relies upon a tax on growers from each box they fill, to advance a proposed $20.6 million budget for next fiscal year that would shrink staff from 39 to 23.
The proposed spending plan, going before the Citrus Commission on Tuesday, would be 31.9 percent below the current year’s $30.3 million operating budget. The USDA will make one more monthly forecast before the end of the season.