LAKELAND, Fla. -- Florida will produce 9 percent fewer oranges this year, and experts see the crop reduction as evidence the state's citrus industry is still experiencing the effects of recent bouts with disease and hurricanes.



According to the USDA's crop estimate released Thursday, Florida will produce 135 million boxes of oranges, 26 million boxes of grapefruit and 5.7 million boxes of specialty fruit. The figures for oranges and specialty fruit decreased from last year, however, grapefruit production will increase 35 percent.



"It is good news that our grapefruit crop is beginning to rebound," said Ken O. Keck, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus. "On the orange side, supply is still recovering. But the Florida industry is resilient and we will continue to produce the world's best citrus. This year will be no different."



During the past two years, four major hurricanes have hit Florida's citrus producing regions. The citrus industry has also been hit hard by canker and greening, diseases that can kill citrus trees but do not harm humans.



"While retail prices may go up some, orange juice continues to be a tremendous value for consumers," said Bob Norberg, the FDOC's director of economic and market research. "Our job here at the FDOC is to remind consumers of this value."



Keck said, "We will continue to promote the health and wellness benefits of citrus products. We have put together an effective mix of television and Internet advertising, public relations and retail communications programs that help remind consumers orange juice and grapefruit juice are some of the most naturally nutrient-rich beverages on the market. As supply rebounds in the coming years, we must increase demand."



The Florida Department of Citrus is an executive agency of Florida government charged with the marketing, research and regulation of the Florida citrus industry. Its activities are funded by a tax paid by growers on each box of citrus that moves through commercial channels. The USDA's Web site is www.nass.usda.gov/fl/rtoc0ci.htm



SOURCE Florida Department of Citrus via PR Newswire.