Florida Grapefruit Production May Reach 99-Year Low on Storms

Updated on
  • State’s share of U.S. harvest lowest ever; survival questioned
  • National crop smallest since 1930 as disease devastates groves

Who Pays The Bill When Mother Nature Strikes?

It’s not just the orange groves that were hit hard by Hurricane Irma -- Florida’s grapefruit harvest is now projected to fall to the lowest in nearly a century.

Production may only reach 4.65 million boxes in the current crop year, which would be the lowest output since 1919, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast earlier this week. Texas is aiming to shore up some lost output and next year could surpass Florida as the top grapefruit producer for the first time, according to USDA data. Still, the nationwide crop of 14.15 million boxes will be the smallest since 1930, less than half the harvest as recently as 2013.

Hurricane Irma in September nearly finished off a crop that’s already struggled with devastation from citrus greening disease for more than a decade, said Alan Hodges, an agricultural economist with the University of Florida in Gainesville. "There’s a question whether the industry will survive," he said. 

Still, he said, Florida remains central to U.S. grapefruit exports, and consumer demand has remained strong in spite of rising prices.

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