Hurricane Irma continues to haunt Florida farmers as the U.S. Department of Agriculture Tuesday once again decreased its monthly estimate of the state's 2017-2018 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.
Officials with the outfit Florida Citrus Mutual said they were not surprised by the news.
CEO Michael Sparks said this was exactly what they thought would happen "as the true damage begins to rear its ugly head in the groves across Florida."
Sparks added that the situation was likely going to get worse before it gets better; and they suspect the actual size of the 2017-2018 crop will not be known until the season is over and all the fruit is picked.
Sparks noted that the 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."
On September 10 of this year, Hurricane Irma moved through the center of the state pounding Florida's major citrus producing regions with up to 110 mph winds and 15 inches of rain.
Authorities say 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 almost 60 percent with some reports of 100 percent fruit loss in the Southwest part of the state.
The USDA makes its first citrus crop estimate in October of each year and revises it monthly until the end of the season in July.