Huanglongbing — also known as Citrus Greening Disease — has caused Florida’s orange production to decline by nearly 90% since 2005, allowing California to overtake the country’s top-producing citrus state.
According to a recent Market Intel report from the American Farm Bureau Federation, Florida orange production peaked in 2004 with a production of 242 million 90-pound boxes. In 2005, HLB — a currently incurable disease carried by the small, invasive sap-sucking Asian citrus psyllid — was identified for the first time in Florida.
Now, the disease is having real impacts on Florida's citrus crop. Orange production in the Sunshine State is expected to be a mere 16 million boxes this year after nearly twenty years of combating premature fruit drop, compromised juice quality and lower yields.
California, however, is predicted to overtake the top spot in U.S. citrus production this year with the production of 45 million boxes, or 72%, of all domestic oranges.
Despite HLB confirmations in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties, California orange production has held steady between 40 million and 65 million boxes since 2000.
California grapefruit is also pulling a larger weight in the domestic percentage of citrus production, accounting for 51% of 2023’s projected crop. Texas is expected to harvest 29% of the U.S. grapefruit crop, followed by Florida with 20% of the domestic total. But those percentages are part of a much smaller crop; grapefruit production has dropped 88% since 2000.
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“Citrus production in the United States has dropped to levels so low that U.S. citrus producers can no longer support domestic demand nor lead the world in market share,” Daniel Munch, an economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation economist, said in a report. “California and Texas, which have been able to maintain and even increase production of most citrus crops, could take on some of this production decline but face their own intrastate challenges including potential citrus greening outbreaks in their own groves.”
About 84% of the oranges available for domestic consumption are used in juice, with most of the remainder being consumed fresh. Orange juice processing facilities have decreased from 41 in 2003 to 14 in 2017.
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