Florida citrus outlook looking positiveCitrus growers in Florida are optimistic about the first forecast for the 2014-2015 season as USDA reports healthier looking groves with improved external quality compared to a year earlier.

According to the Florida Department of Citrus, the forecast includes a projection of 15 million boxes of grapefruit which is slightly below last year’s number, but an indicator the industry is stabilizing.

Citrus crops in Florida have been devastated by citrus greening in recent years with the 2012-2013 growing season down 15 percent from the previous year. Citrus greening is a bacterial disease that spreads internally throughout the plant. The disease, which is transmitted from infected plants to healthy ones by the Asian citrus psyllid, causes fruit to ripen unevenly and become lopsided, visibly smaller and bitter-tasting. The disease has already killed off millions of crops throughout the world. The disease was first discovered in the US in 2005 and can spread rapidly, killing a tree within four or five years.

“Despite facing enormous challenges, Florida's citrus industry has remained resilient,” said Doug Ackerman, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC). “The industry will continue to improve and prevail because of the innovation and hard work our growers bring to the groves every single day.”

According to the citrus department, state grapefruit growers and packers are pleased with the quality of the early season crop. 

“Despite the slight reduction to the size of the overall grapefruit crop, we expect the improved exterior quality to allow for more Florida grapefruit to be packed and shipped to our key export markets compared to last season,” said Michael Schadler, director of international marketing at the FDOC.