Florida boosts its citrus budget

Citrus. By Ian DeBarry/WMNF

An increase in the forecast for the citrus growing season means a little more juice in the budget for the Department of Citrus without an increase in the “box” taxes assessed to growers.

The Florida Citrus Commission on Wednesday approved a revised operating budget of $23.239 million, up $372,000 from the preliminary budget approved in June.

The slight increase is attributed to an increase in the forecast for the growing season from the 2022-2023 season that the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave the industry on Oct. 12, according to an email from Christine Marion, administration and finance deputy executive director for the state citrus agency.

The initial forecast for the 2023-2024 growing season predicts a nearly 30 percent increase in oranges from the 2022-2023 season, which was ravaged by Hurricane Ian.

The citrus industry is still recovering from Ian, which made landfall last year in Southwest Florida.

The forecast for this season is 20.5 million industry-standard 90-pound boxes — less than half of the 41.2 million boxes produced during the 2021-2022 season.

Meanwhile, officials project 1.9 million boxes of grapefruit this season, up from 1.81 million boxes in 2022-2023.

And specialty crops, primarily tangerines and tangelos, are forecast at 500,000 boxes this season, just over 4 percent more than in the 2022-2023 season.

The majority of the anticipated revenue increase for the current fiscal year is designated for reserves, Marion noted.

As part of the budget approval, the “box” tax that growers pay will stand at 12 cents a box for processed oranges, 5 cents a box for fresh oranges and 7 cents a box for grapefruit and specialty fruits.

The budget for the Bartow-based citrus department includes $11.3 million for domestic and international marketing and promotions involving oranges — the majority of Florida oranges are processed into juice.

Another $4.9 million goes toward research of citrus greening disease and to establish new varieties.

Grapefruit production gets $3.188 million for marketing and promotional efforts. Another $374,000 goes to research efforts focused on grapefruit.

The budget for the prior year started at $29.795 million, but was decreased by $776,142 due to Hurricane Ian’s impact on the citrus industry.

©2023 The News Service of Florida

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