TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (NSF) - Florida citrus production and crop value is up from a year ago, when the industry was trying to recover after being hit hard by Hurricane Irma.
But the industry continues to bleed acreage in the state, according to numbers released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The federal agency’s commercial citrus inventory recorded 430,601 acres spread across 25 counties, 4 percent fewer acres than a year ago.
“The net loss of 16,411 acres is more than twice what was lost last season,” the federal agency noted.
The overall total acreage this year was the lowest since the survey started in 1966.
Only Sarasota County posted an increase in acres being used commercially to grow oranges, grapefruit and specialty crops such as tangerines, tangelos and lemons.
The USDA reports said new plantings accounted for 10,068 acres, off 17 percent from a year ago, and that the 61.4 million trees were 2 percent fewer than the prior season.
Indian River County, down 3,502 acres from a year ago, lost the most acres for the second consecutive year..
DeSoto County, with 67,406 acres of citrus, surpassed Polk County for most acreage.
Statewide, oranges accounted for 392,515 acres, down 3 percent.
Grapefruit acreage statewide was at 25,339 acres, down 18 percent.
Specialty fruit acreage, at 12,747 acres, was up 1 percent from last season.
Growers during the 2017-2018 growing season posted 75-year lows because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma, which hammered much of the state in September 2017. The hurricane caused massive damage in key counties for the citrus industry, uprooting trees and leaving many groves in standing water.
During the recently completed 2018-2019 season, the industry continued battling deadly citrus-greening disease and factors such as an expansion of development into rural areas and changes in national drinking habits.
But the 2018-2019 season saw a 59 percent increase in orange production from the 2017-2018 season and a 4 percent increase from the 2016-2017 season, which was not devastated by a hurricane.
Grapefruit was down nearly 42 percent from two years ago, while specialty crops were off almost 39 percent in the same time.
The production in the most-recent growing season, from September 2018 to July 2019, had a preliminary $873 million on-tree value for the citrus crops, 37 percent more than the $637 million revised value for 2017-2018, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The total was still off 6 percent from the $927 million crop value during the 2016-2017 season.