A leader of Florida’s struggling citrus industry offered a positive view after getting a slight increase Friday in the decades-low harvest forecast for the current growing season. Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus, expressed some optimism after the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast Friday that growers in Florida would produce enough oranges to fill 68.5 million 90-pound boxes, 500,000 more than projected in May.
“This has been a particularly tough season for Florida citrus growers with greening and other traditional crop challenges,” Shepp said in a prepared statement. “An increase in 500,000 boxes could be easily dismissed, but in this context, it is a celebration and shows that these growers are still fighting with everything they’ve got.” The final forecast for the season will be made in July. The June forecast number is about 2 percent below estimates when the current growing season began in October. The industry — battling deadly citrus greening disease — filled 81.6 million boxes of oranges during the 2015-2016 season. The state’s grapefruit harvest remained at 7.8 million boxes between the May and June reports.
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