Florida Orange-Crop Forecast Reduced as Disease Spoils Fruit

The orange crop in Florida, the world’s second-biggest grower, will be 2.7 percent smaller than forecast in December, the government said as a plant disease damaged groves. The drop was bigger than analysts expected.

The state will produce 142 million boxes of the fruit in the nine-month season ending in June, down from 146 million forecast a month ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today in a report. The average estimate of eight analysts and traders in a Bloomberg News survey was 145.16 million boxes. Florida produced 146.6 million boxes in the previous season.

“The amount of fruit per tree is lower, and fruit size is also down,” Jimmy Tintle, chief executive officer at GreenKey Alternative Asset Services in Longwood, Florida, said in a telephone interview before the report was issued. The plant disease, called citrus greening, “has been spreading for years and is cutting into production,” he said.

The bacterial disease, first found in the state in 2005, starves a tree of nutrients, causing fruit to drop prematurely. Oranges are often smaller, especially in younger trees.

Orange-juice plummeted 46 percent in the 12 months through yesterday amid slowing demand in the U.S. and rising supplies, fed by increasing imports. The March contract rose 0.3 percent to $1.128 a pound at 9:51 a.m. on ICE Futures U.S. in New York on expectations that the government would reduce its forecast for Florida’s crop.

Yields in Florida will average 1.61 gallons per box, down from 1.63 gallons a year earlier, the USDA said.

A box weighs 90 pounds, or 41 kilograms. Brazil is the biggest orange producer.

To contact the reporter on this story: Marvin G. Perez in New York at mperez71@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Stroth at sstroth@bloomberg.net

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