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Weather and disease has significantly affected Florida citrus production.

The damage caused to Florida's citrus groves and the reduction in growing acreage caused by the recent years' hurricanes and the effects of canker is permanent, meaning the state is unlikely to see its citrus production regain its former heights. This is the conclusion of the Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC) director Ken Keck. There has been a "dramatic decrease" in growing acreage, now down to some 500,000 acres from 700,000 acres formerly. In addition, the tree inventory has fallen by about 12% from its previous high of 80 million trees.

However, said Keck, the average number of boxes per tree "suggest that the news is not all bad. The hurricanes blew the fruit off the trees, reducing output, but this damage is swiftly repairable.

Globally, Keck said world inventories of frozen concentrated orange juice (FCOJ) are at their lowest level since 1994, representing about eight and a half weeks' supply in producing countries. The U.S. and the EU are the top users, with U.S. consumption at 4.4 single strength equivalent (SSE) gallons per head. U.S. consumption is down 7.5% at 1.215 billion gallons in 2006/07, from 1.468 billion gallons in 2003/04. Total U.S. orange juice revenue has been flat over the last couple of seasons at slightly over $3.50 billion.

Keck also was reasonably positive about Florida's likely reduced orange juice output. "If we keep preaching the health and wellness message, we believe that we can at least hold the line," he said.

Florida's grapefruit acreage is down to 60,000 acres from a peak of over 140,000 acres. Last year's final hurricane, Wilma, at least missed the critical Indian River grapefruit groves, and Keck said he thought the trees could recover. Fruit per tree levels are already back to 1994/2004 levels.

Keck said one reason for the fall in U.S. grapefruit sales was the lack of promotion. "Over the last three years grapefruit growers didn't in any significant way pay for grapefruit marketing promotion," he said. "They opted not to significantly invest in promotion. This year, the writing is on the wall and the growers voted for a 35 US cents tax on every 85lbs box."

Mike Yetter, spokesman for the Florida Department of Citrus, said the forecast total was "a little less than what we had put in our initial plan." The higher grapefruit forecast may not mean greater availability of juice. According to Yetter, the quality and appearance of the fruit is excellent, and much will go to fresh markets. However, Florida's grapefruit juice inventories remain high.
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Comment:Weather and disease has significantly affected Florida citrus production.
Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 30, 2006
Words:437
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