Florida Orange Crop Estimate to be Reduced

Bloomberg. 3 January 2011.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture may lower its estimate of Florida’s orange crop for the second straight month, this time because of cold weather.  The USDA on Jan. 12 may cut a “couple million boxes” from its projection, Ray Royce, the executive director of the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, said today in a telephone interview. The group accounts for about 13 percent of Florida’s crop, the biggest in the world behind Brazil’s.

Orange-juice futures surged more than 6 percent today to a three-year high of $1.7355 a pound on concern that Florida’s crop was hurt by the cold. In the previous season, the state produced the second-smallest crop in two decades after a January freeze damaged fruit.  “We are already seeing some fruit hit the ground,” Royce said. “We are also expecting some juice loss.”  In mid-December, Florida declared a state of emergency amid severe cold and prospects of crop damage. Temperatures in growing regions have dropped below freezing a few times since then. One night last week, the mercury stayed below 28 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 2 degrees Celsius) in some areas for longer than 10 hours, enough to cause “significant damage,” Royce said.

On Dec. 10, the USDA forecast a crop of 143 million boxes of oranges in the harvest that began in October and runs into July, down from an October estimate of 146 million boxes. The department made the projection before the cold temperatures set in and cited small fruit size caused by dry conditions. In the previous season, output totaled 133.6 million boxes.  Yields will average 1.61 gallons per box, up from 1.56 gallons last year, the USDA said last month. A box weighs about 90 pounds, or 41 kilograms.  Prices climbed 27 percent last year, partly as adverse weather threatened crops in the U.S. and Brazil, the largest grower.  Orange-juice futures for March delivery jumped 9.4 cents, or 5.7 percent, to $1.7295 a pound at 12:45 p.m. on ICE Futures U.S. in New York. read more