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SEBRING, Fla. – In its first forecast of the 2017-18 season, the National Agriculture Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected a Florida Orange crop of 54 million boxes, though doubt remains as to whether that accurately portrays the crop size after Hurricane Irma.

“We have yet to realize the full extent of Hurricane Irma’s impact on the Florida Citrus industry and today’s forecast reflects that,” said Ellis Hunt, a Lake Wales citrus grower and chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission. “I expect we will see this number decrease even further in future crop estimates.”

Grower reports of damage range from 30 to 70 percent, depending on the region and where they fell in Hurricane Irma’s path.

Thursday’s report predicts a more modest 21 percent drop in the state’s orange production over last season. The report projected the Florida Grapefruit crop to produce 4.9 million boxes, a decrease of 37 percent.

According to Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus: “Our growers would love to see these numbers materialize. Unfortunately, what they are seeing in real life doesn’t show such promise. We do know one thing. Our growers will not stop. They will not give up.”

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced earlier this week that Florida citrus sustained more than $760 million in damages. Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam joined Governor Rick Scott and Florida’s Congressional Delegation this week in Washington D.C to discuss the recent damage caused by Hurricane Irma and to request federal assistance.

About the Florida Department of Citrus

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 industry employs 45,000 people, provides an annual economic impact of $8.6 billion to the state, and contributes hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues that help support Florida’s schools, roads and health care services. For more information about the Florida Department of Citrus, please visit FloridaCitrus.org.