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Florida Orange-Crop Estimate Cut 2.9% by USDA on Disease Damage

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June 12 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture reduced its forecast for Florida’s orange crop by 2.9 percent because of damage from citrus greening, a bacterial disease. The cut exceeded analysts’ estimates.

In the season that started Oct. 1, the state may collect 134 million boxes, down from 138 million projected last month, the USDA said today in a report. On average, analysts and traders expected the agency to cut the estimate to 137.8 million boxes, a Bloomberg News survey showed. A year earlier, output was 146.7 million. Florida is the world’s second-biggest orange grower.

In May, rain across most of the state’s growing areas was at least double the normal amount, ending a drought, David Streit, a senior meteorologist at World Commodity Weather Group, said in a telephone interview. From December to April, the USDA cut its crop projection each month as dry weather combined with damage from greening to erode prospects for fruit.

While “the better rains will be good for next year’s harvest, the damage from greening is already done for the current crop,” Sterling Smith, a futures specialist at Citigroup Inc. in Chicago, said in a telephone interview.

Through yesterday, orange-juice futures in New York jumped 34 percent in the past 12 months. Citrus greening starves a tree of nutrients, causing fruit to shrink and drop prematurely. The disease has been found in all of Florida’s 32 counties that produce the fruit commercially.

Yields will average 1.59 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 top 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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