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Florida orange crop forecast drops

The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued its final forecast Thursday, pegging the 2012-13 Florida orange crop at 133.4 million boxes, down 9 percent from last season.

There are 66.3 million boxes of Valencias, down 700,000 boxes; early-mid varieties climbed 100,000 boxes to 67.1 million.

"This year's crop really shows the devastating effects of HLB, or citrus greening disease," Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual, said in a press release. "We had severe fruit drop and a lot of citrus from stressed trees with HLB ended up on the ground.

"If anything, this season provides stark evidence that growers, scientists and the state and federal governments need to work together to beat this disease and save the $9 billion Florida citrus industry and the 76,000 jobs it supports," he said. "The ongoing research looks positive, and I'm optimistic it will ultimately find a solution to HLB but at this time there is no cure."

The USDA makes its initial estimate in October of each year and revises it monthly as the crop takes shape until the end of the season in July. The USDA's initial October orange estimate for 2012-13 was 154 million boxes. During the 2011-12 season, Florida produced 146.7 million boxes of oranges

The complete USDA estimate is available here.

The 2012-13 Florida grapefruit crop stayed at 18.4 million boxes. Tangerines and tangelos also remained steady at 3.35 million and 1 million respectively. The yield for from concentrate orange juice decreased slightly to 1.59 gallons per 90-pound box.

The Florida citrus industry has a $9 billion annual economic influence, employing nearly 76,000 people and covering about 550,000 acres. Founded in 1948, Florida Citrus Mutual is one of the state's larger citrus grower organizations. More information is available at www.flcitrusmutual.com. To receive winter weather updates follow FCM on Twitter.