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The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its April orange crop forecast for the 2008-09 season, slightly reducing the total orange estimate by 400,000 boxes, to 157.6 million boxes.

"This is a manageable crop, and that's important because we need to start moving out excess juice inventories," Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual, said in an April 9 press release. "The USDA has taken off several million boxes since its initial estimate in October, so we are anticipating this should have a positive effect on grower returns."

The early and midseason orange crops accounted for the total reduction with an estimate of 84.6 million boxes, down 400,000 from the previous 85 million boxes.

The Valencia projection remained at 73 million boxes this season, and the USDA maintained its prediction that 23 million boxes of Florida grapefruit will be produced in 2008-09.

Florida specialty fruit remained steady at 1.2 million boxes of tangelos and 4 million boxes of tangerines. The yield for from-concentrate orange juice is still expected to average 1.64 gallons per 90-pound box.