Since it was confirmed in Florida 25 years ago, citrus greening disease has slashed citrus production in the state by 75 percent and infected trees in Louisiana, Texas, and California. USDA researchers said on Thursday they have found a potential remedy that boosts a citrus tree’s natural resistance to disease, including citrus greening.
California, for decades the No. 2 grower, is roaring into the lead as the largest orange-producing state in the nation, said the Agriculture Department on Wednesday. It forecast an orange crop of 1.84 million tons in California this season, more than double Florida’s projected hurricane-damaged harvest of 720,000 tons.
Florida's signature crop, citrus, accounted for one-third of the losses suffered by the state's farming sector last month from Hurricane Ian, said a preliminary damage assessment by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Estimates of total agricultural damages ranged from $1.2 billion to $1.9 billion.
The U.S. orange crop will plunge to 3.88 million tons this year, down 12 percent from last season, said the USDA on Tuesday in its first forecast of the new crop. Both of the leading orange states would see large reductions: Florida down by 11 percent and California down by 13 percent.
Snow and bitter cold damaged the citrus crop in Texas, slowed meat production in the Plains, and threatened to snarl grain exports through the Gulf of Mexico. Some traders have claimed force majeure because of ice and cold weather in Houston and New Orleans, reported AgriCensus
Hurricane Irma pummeled Florida’s citrus crop in September, and now a hard freeze is possible in the northeastern portion of the citrus belt, says weather consultancy Radiant Solutions.
The House passed an $81-billion disaster relief bill that includes $3.8 billion for farmers and ranchers, with Florida expected to get a large share of that money, said The Hill newspaper.
The USDA cut its estimate of Florida’s orange crop for the second time in two months, raising the possibility that California will be the No. 1 orange grower in the country this season.
Florida, the largest citrus-growing state in the nation, will harvest less than three-fourths as many oranges as last year because of damage from Hurricane Irma, said the USDA. In its monthly crop report, the agency estimated orange production at 50 million boxes, 9-percent less than it estimated a month ago and 27-percent less than the 2016/17 crop of 68.75 million boxes.
Florida, the No. 1 citrus-growing state in the nation, suffered "serious and devastating losses from Hurricane Irma," said state agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam after an aerial tour of groves in central and southwest Florida. The harvest season for oranges and grapefruit normally begins in October, so the storm arrived as the fruit was nearing maturity.
Last August, Brazil said it would remove barriers to U.S. beef that were imposed in 2003 to prevent mad cow disease. Nine months later, the first shipment of fresh U.S. beef has cleared customs for sale to Brazilian consumers.
American citrus growers are angry over the Trump administration’s decision to lift an import ban on lemons from northwestern Argentina. “We were completely blindsided,” said Joel Nelsen, president of the California Citrus Mutual.
Global consumption of orange juice will drop by 2 percent this year, part of an overall 15 percent decline in four years, says USDA. The semiannual "Citrus: World Markets and Trade" report says U.S. consumption will drop by 7 percent, reflecting the impact of citrus greening disease on orange groves in Florida, the largest citrus state.
The tiny Asian citrus psyllid, which spreads citrus greening disease, was identified for the first time in Monterey County, on California's central coast, says AgNet West. California is the second-largest citrus state in the country and agricultural officials hope to avoid damage to the state's groves.
Around the world, people are drinking less orange juice, with consumption down one-fifth in the past decade to roughly 1.9 million tonnes this year. Production, dominated by Brazil and the United States, peaked five years ago and has generally declined since.
Florida's citrus industry is "in an accelerating tailspin," with an orange crop forecast by USDA to be the smallest in 52 years, says the Tampa Bay Times. "The new forecast is a startling 17 percent drop in one year, raising questions of when — or if — Florida's citrus business will be able to stabilize."
A large Florida citrus grower and processor, Southern Gardens Citrus based in Clewiston, "is growing genetically modified fruit that’s resistant to the citrus greening disease," said The Packer.
Orange production will drop by 7 percent this year due to lower yields among the four major growers, Brazil, China, the United States and the European Union, which account for two-thirds of world output, says the USDA.
The fatal citrus greening disease was confirmed for the second time in the San Gabriel section of Los Angeles County, reports the Fresno Bee.