Florida orange production is on pace for state’s smallest crop in 77 years. Blame citrus diseases.

If the latest USDA estimate holds true, Florida would produce its fewest number of oranges since 1944-1945, and California would surpass it for the first time in recent years.

SHARE Florida orange production is on pace for state’s smallest crop in 77 years. Blame citrus diseases.
Oranges ripen in a grove in Plant City, Fla., east of Tampa

Oranges ripen in a grove in Plant City, Fla., east of Tampa.

Chris O’Meara / AP

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida is on pace to produce its smallest crop of oranges in 77 years as a devastating citrus disease continues to exact a toll on growers in a state that traditionally has been No. 1 in the nation in orange production.

The state’s citrus industry has been on a quarter-century slide largely because of citrus greening, a bacterial scourge that can cause massive fruit drops and eventually kill citrus trees. It’s also been faced with another plant disease that can cause the leaves and fruit of citrus trees to drop prematurely and create unappealing lesions on the fruit.

According to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast, the state is expected to produce 44.5 million 90-pound boxes of oranges this citrus-growing season, which lasts from fall into late spring in Florida — down 1.5 million boxes from what was forecast only in December.

If the estimate holds true, Florida would have smallest orange crop since the 1944-1945 season, when the state produced 42.3 million boxes, and California would surpass it in orange production for the first time in recent years.

The USDA’s January forecast for grapefruit remained unchanged from the previous month, at 4.1 million boxes.

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