The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released its first estimate of the Florida citrus crop, but Florida officials are concerned that the estimate of 54 million boxes for the total orange crop may miss the mark.
In fact, Florida's largest citrus grower organization said Thursday the U.S. Department of Agriculture's initial estimate of the 2017-2018 citrus crop is well above the crop predicted by the results of their grower damage survey.
Officials with Florida Citrus Mutual say they believe the agency could not accurately account for the full extent of the catastrophic damage from Hurricane Irma, which is why they believe the true size of the crop is below the estimate.
Historically, the USDA has a high margin of error in crop years with a natural disaster.
Officials expressed disappointment that the USDA did not delay the traditional October crop estimate until more data could be collected to fully assess the damage done by Irma.
Officials say Irma struck roughly a month ago, and there is no way USDA officials can put out a reliable number in that short time period.
On September 10, 2017 Hurricane Irma moved through the center of the state hitting Florida's major citrus producing regions with up to 120 mph winds.
The hurricane blew fruit off the tree and caused widespread tree damage.
A Florida Citrus Mutual survey of growers conducted post Irma pegged total fruit loss at more than 50 percent with some reports of 100 percent fruit loss in the Southwest part of the state.
The USDA's total orange forecast as it stands now is for 54 million boxes, made up of 23 million Early and Midseason and 31 million boxes of Valencias.
The total grapefruit forecast is for 4.9 million boxes, with whites at 900,000 and colored at 4 million boxes.
Total specialty fruit comes in at 1 million boxes.
Mutual's grower survey predicted the 2017-2018 orange crop closer to 31 million boxes.
The USDA makes its first estimate in October of each year and revises it monthly as the crop takes shape until the end of the season in July.