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The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its initial citrus crop forecast for the 2010-11 season Oct. 8, estimating that Florida will produce 146 million boxes of oranges — a 9 percent increase over last season.

"We had a big bloom in the spring, so we figured this crop would be larger. This number is not a surprise," Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual, said in an Oct. 8 press release. “It does prove that despite many challenges, Florida growers continue to be the best and most efficient citrus producers. Recognizing we are sitting on lower [orange juice] inventories, we would hope that even with a larger crop, the market will continue to put upward pressure on grower returns.”

The USDA makes its initial forecast in October and then revises it monthly until the end of the season in July. The USDA predicted that Florida would harvest 20 million boxes of grapefruit in 2010-11, down slightly from the 20.3 million boxes produced last season.

The forecast for early and midseason varieties in Florida is projected at 69 million boxes, and Valencias are projected to total 77 million boxes this season.

For Florida specialty fruit, the USDA predicts 1.1 million boxes of tangelos and 4.5 million boxes of tangerines. The yield for concentrate orange juice is expected to be 1.61 gallons per 90-pound box.