Florida citrus growers are optimistic after the first citrus crop forecast of 2014-2015 was released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with groves looking healthier and exterior quality having improved compared to the last couple seasons.
The forecast includes a projection of 15 million boxes in Florida grapefruit (4 million white and 11 million colored), which, though a slight decline from the previous season, is an indication of grapefruit production stabilization for the industry.
Growers are continuing to find innovative treatments to battle citrus greening and sustain production numbers, and the improved quality this year is expected to increase the available volume of grapefruit for the fresh market.
"Despite facing enormous challenges, Florida's citrus industry has remained resilient," says Doug Ackerman, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC). "The industry will continue to improve and prevail because of the innovation and hard work our growers bring to the groves every single day."
Furthermore, Florida remains the largest grapefruit production region in the world with just more than 44,900 acres of grapefruit trees. It's estimated that there are 4.6 million bearing grapefruit trees in Florida.
Florida's grapefruit growers and packers are very pleased with the quality of the early season crop. The exterior quality is showing marked improvement compared to the last two seasons, and interior taste, for which Florida is famous, is off to a very good start.
"Despite the slight reduction to the size of the overall grapefruit crop, we expect the improved exterior quality to allow for more Florida grapefruit to be packed and shipped to our key export markets compared to last season," says Michael Schadler, director of international marketing at the FDOC.
As the season continues, the initial crop forecast will be adjusted to reflect any changes. Many in the industry are hopeful the numbers will remain strong.