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USDA predicts decrease to 2012-13 citrus crop

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said its estimate of the 2012-13 Florida citrus crop has decreased more than 5 percent to 146 million boxes. The majority of the decrease will occur in early-mid varieties, which declined 7 million boxes to 67 million from the USDA's initial October estimate. Valencias decreased 1 million boxes to 79 million boxes.

The USDA makes its first estimate in October of each year and revises it monthly as the crop takes shape until the end of the season in July.

"This decrease was not entirely unexpected, as we have been hearing reports of severe fruit drop throughout the state," Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual, said in a press release. "The dry weather, coupled with intense disease pressure growers are facing, is most likely causing the drop.

"I anticipate the decrease in crop size will continue to put upward pressure on fruit pricing," he said.

During the 2011-12 season, Florida produced 146.6 million boxes of oranges.

For Florida specialty fruit, the USDA now predicts 1.1 million boxes of tangelos, down from 1.2 million in October, and 3.8 million boxes of tangerines, down from 4.4 million in October. The yield for from concentrate orange juice remained at 1.61 gallons per 90-pound box.

The USDA now predicts Florida will harvest 18 million boxes of grapefruit, down from October's estimate of 20.3 million boxes.

The complete USDA estimate is available at www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Florida/Publications/Citrus/cpfp.htm.