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Florida citrus industry takes huge drop in production due to Hurricane Ian

Citrus Crop Florida
FILE – In this July 14, 2006 file photo, Juan Tinajero, drops an 80-pound bag of oranges into a holding barrel in Arcadia, Fla. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture released its citrus production forecast Wednesday, April 9, 2014. The forecast this year’s Florida orange crop is approaching the fruit’s lowest crop total in 24 years. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara, File)

Florida faces an all time low of producing the smallest crop since the Great Depression due to Hurricane Ian.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday released an initial forecast for the 2022-2023 growing season that showed overall citrus production down a projected 31.8% from the past season. That would result in the lowest production since the 1935-1936 season, according to Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services statistics.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the numbers from the report were based on surveys of citrus groves before Hurricane Ian made landfall on areas where citrus crops grow in Southwest Florida.

The industry during the 2021-2022 season had its lowest output in eight decades.  The Category 4 storm’s destruction is not the only cause for a decline in the citrus industry, the state has already been struggling for years with issues due to the damaging citrus greening disease, and growers face increased demand for land, higher labor costs, and foreign competition.

Florida’s grapefruit production is also expected to fall by 40% from a year ago, according to the USDA.

The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimated Hurricane Irma inflicted $2.5 billion in agriculture losses on Florida, with $761 million hitting the citrus industry.

A preliminary damage estimate for Ian has not been released.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried issued a statement Wednesday that said her department “remains committed to innovation in the face of the ongoing challenges of weather events like Ian, citrus greening and unfair trade practices.”

A state budget that went into effect July 1 will be for Department of Citrus marketing programs, research programs, and Citrus Health Response Program which includes new trees resistant to greening.