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Florida citrus closes books on worst season since World War II

Hurricane Irma's damage to Florida's citrus industry can mostly be measured at this point. The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts that the state will produce about 45 million boxes of oranges, down 40 percent from the 68 to 75 million boxes forecasted before the storm. Pictured is an orange from Cee Bee's Citrus in 2018. [GABRIELLA ANGOTTI-JONES   |   Times, 2018]
Hurricane Irma's damage to Florida's citrus industry can mostly be measured at this point. The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts that the state will produce about 45 million boxes of oranges, down 40 percent from the 68 to 75 million boxes forecasted before the storm. Pictured is an orange from Cee Bee's Citrus in 2018. [GABRIELLA ANGOTTI-JONES | Times, 2018]
Published Jun. 14, 2018

It's official: Hurricane Irma's wrath has left Florida's citrus industry limping out of its worst season since 1942.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts that the state will produce about 45 million boxes of oranges this year, down 40 percent from the 68 million to 75 million boxes that was forecasted before the September storm crossed the state.

The department's June prediction was unchanged from its May forecast.

Related coverage: Florida scientists are working to solve greening. They were too late for Cee Bee's.>

"This brings a very difficult citrus season to a close," said Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus, in a release. "We look forward to a quiet, resilient season in the fall."

Florida is expected to produce about 3.8 million boxes of grapefruit, down from last season's 7.8 million boxes and the 2015-2016 season's 10.8 million boxes. Citrus yields are measured by 90-pound boxes.

As of October, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimated that Hurricane Irma caused more than $760 million in damages to the state's citrus industry.

Related coverage: Months after Hurricane Irma, Florida citrus production is steady>

"While today's final citrus crop forecast brings this horrible season to a close, it's important to remember that the industry is still recovering from Hurricane Irma's unprecedented damage last year," Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said.

Florida produces about 60 percent of the country's citrus, amounting to about $1 billion in sales each year, according to state figures.

Related coverage: Florida orange crop expected to be lowest in 75 years>

Congress passed a relief package in February to assist those affected by natural disasters, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in April that it will distribute $2.36 billion for victims of 2017 wildfires and hurricanes.

Contact this reporter at mcarollo@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.

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