U.S.D.A. reduces Florida orange crop forecast by 1%

by Ron Sterk
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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture in its April Crop Production report forecast 2006-07 Florida all orange production at 130.7 million 90-lb boxes as of April 1, down 1.3 million boxes, or 1%, from its March forecast and 17 million boxes, or 12%, below last year.

The lower Florida crop estimate was based on current utilization data, the U.S.D.A. said. But frozen concentrated orange juice yield for 2006-07 was forecast at a record high 1.65 gallons per box at 42 degrees Brix, up from 1.62 gallons in March and 1.63 gallons last year.

California’s all orange crop was forecast at 37 million 75-lb boxes, unchanged from March but down 23.5 million boxes, or 39%, from 60.5 million boxes in 2005-06. California’s navel orange production was forecast at 27 million 75-lb boxes, down 43% from a year ago. Most of California’s crop is utilized as fresh oranges while most of Florida’s crop is made into juice.

The total U.S. orange crop for 2006-07 was forecast at 169.9 million boxes (7.362 million tons), down 1% from the March forecast and down 40.35 million boxes (1.64 million tons), or 18%, from 210.25 million boxes (9 million tons) a year ago.

U.S. lemon production for 2006-07 was forecast at 19 million 76-lb boxes, unchanged from March but down 5.8 million boxes, or 23%, from 24.8 million in 2005-06. U.S. grapefruit production was forecast at 39.4 million boxes (1.614 million lbs), unchanged from March but up 8.8 million boxes (382,000 lbs), or 29%, from a year ago.

California and Arizona citrus areas were hit by a severe freeze in mid-January, significantly reducing fresh orange and lemon production. California packing houses continued to monitor for freeze-damaged fruit, the U.S.D.A. said, and growers in some areas feared that bud and tree damage could seriously affect the 2007-08 crop.

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