Florida’s orange crop continues to suffer defeat from Hurricane Irma. The forecast for the crop has been lowered by eight per cent and seasons are quickly finishing. The USDA’s latest forecast estimated growers will produce 46 million 90-pound boxes of oranges in the 2017-18 season – 4 million less than in a November estimate they released. With the new estimate, crops would be 33 percent smaller than last season – the lowest box count since Florida’s 1944-45 season.
Short season is of concern
Steve Johnson of Johnson Harvesting is concerned with the downtime before the next season starts on late season oranges, which will be Valencia. Harvest has been four weeks ahead of schedule. “We’re picking a lot less because of the storm,” he says. The hamlin orange season normally runs until the last week of February or first week but Johnson says they could possibly finish much earlier. “It creates several issues. The main one is: what do you do with your labor? You want to keep them busy and second is cash flow and profitability.” Something that would require some investigation and time would be for growers to be able to have other crops as somewhat of filler. “We’re going to have to find other crops that fall in between those gaps and make those work,” he says.
Fruit quality is fair, though not as good as he’s had in the past. The trees are stressed from the storms. Recalling back in 2004 when the state experienced major hurricanes Johnson’s trees took about two seasons to return to ‘normal’. Most fruit goes for juice, some for fresh. “I would say all groves were affected by the storm in one way or another whether it was water or wind.” Finishing up the season on hamlins, Johnson is enduring between now and early into the New Year. “We’re in survival mode to be honest and try to figure out what we can budget for next year.”
Source – http://www.freshplaza.com