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Florida citrus crop continues to plummet in the wake of Irma

Hurricane Irma continues to haunt Florida farmers as the U.S. Department of Agriculture once again decreased its monthly estimate of the state's 2017-18 citrus crop.

The USDA now says Florida will produce 46 million boxes of oranges, down 4 million boxes from November and 8 million boxes from October. The USDA makes its first estimate in October of each year and revises it monthly until the end of the season in July. 

"This is exactly what we thought would happen as the true damage begins to rear its ugly head in the groves across Florida," said Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual, the state's largest grower organization. "Unfortunately the situation is going to get worse before it gets better; we think the actual size of the 2017-18 crop will not be known until the season is over and all the fruit is picked.

"Clearly, this lower estimate provides stark evidence that Congress needs to pass a citrus relief package so we can start to rebuild and put the industry on a path to sustainability while saving the communities that rely on citrus," he said.

On Sept. 10 Hurricane Irma moved through the center of the state pounding Florida's major citrus producing regions with up to 110-mile-per-hour winds and 15 inches of rain. The hurricane blew fruit off the tree and caused widespread tree damage. A FCM survey of growers conducted post Irma pegged total fruit loss at almost 60 percent with some reports of 100 percent fruit loss in the Southwest part of the state.