U.S.D.A. cuts California, Florida citrus crop estimates

by Ron Sterk
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WASHINGTON — In its March 9 Crop Production report the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast 2006-07 California orange production down 39% from a year ago, reflecting effects of a January freeze, and the Florida orange crop down 11% from last year.

California total orange production was forecast by the U.S.D.A. at 37 million 75-lb boxes (1.39 million tons), down 9 million boxes, or 20% from its January forecast of 46 million boxes and down 23.5 million boxes from 60.5 million in 2006.

"Reports of damage from January’s freeze varied widely from groves being completely unaffected to others where the crop was considered a complete loss," the U.S.D.A. said. Some private estimates shortly after the freeze put citrus losses in California as high as 70%. The U.S.D.A. added, however, "Damages to the state’s citrus crop was still being assessed."

California’s navel orange crop was forecast at 27 million boxes, down 18% from the January forecast and down 43% from a year ago.

"Harvest had begun before the freeze but many growers reported that much of their remaining fruit would be utilized for juice," the U.S.D.A. said. Navel oranges typically are used as fresh fruit.

U.S. lemon production for 2006-07 was forecast at 19 million 76-lb boxes, down 18% from January and down 23% from a year ago. California production, forecast at 16.5 million 76-lb boxes, was down 20% from January and down 21% from 2005-06. Arizona lemon production was forecast at 2.5 million boxes, down 34% from a year ago. The Arizona crop also was reduced by freezing weather.

The Florida total orange crop was forecast at 132 million 90-lb boxes (5.94 million tons), down 8 million boxes, or 6% from the February forecast of 140 million boxes, and down 15.7 million boxes, or 11%, from the 2005-06 production of 147.7 million boxes. Although Florida experienced freezing temperatures in February, the duration was not long enough to cause severe damage to this year’s crop, the U.S.D.A. said. The reduced forecast was based on current utilization data, the report said.

Florida frozen concentrated orange juice yield for 2006-07 was forecast at 1.62 gallons per box, up from 1.61 gallons forecast in February but down from 1.63 gallons a year ago. Most Florida oranges are used for juice.

Total U.S. 2006-07 orange production was forecast at 171.3 million boxes, (7.43 million tons), down 17 million boxes, or 9%, from the previous forecast and down 38.9 million boxes, or 18%, from last year’s revised production of 210.3 million boxes (9 million tons), the U.S.D.A. said.

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