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Latest forecast: Oranges up, grapefruit steady

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Florida orange production went up a bit and grapefruit production leveled off, according to the latest forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The Florida Department of Citrus announced the estimates Friday.

“The June report projects the state’s orange crop to increase by 500,000 boxes to 68.5 million for the 2016-17 season,” its press release said. “The grapefruit crop held steady at 7.8 million boxes and tangelos dipped slightly by 10,000 to 1.62 million.”

The monthly forecasts, however, are best guesses. The real numbers come after the growing season ends; it’s those figures that tell the story of citrus in Florida.

“This has been a particularly tough season for Florida citrus growers with greening and other traditional crop challenges,” said Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus.

“An increase in 500,000 boxes could be easily dismissed, but in this context it is a celebration, and shows that these growers are still fighting with everything they’ve got,” Shepp added.

The state’s citrus industry has been hurt by the citrus greening epidemic. The so-far incurable disease is attacking fruit, causing it to turn green and bitter, and eventually killing the tree.

Greening is caused by a jumping plant louse and the bacteria it hosts. The tiny bugs feed on citrus leaves and infect the trees with the bacteria as they go. Researchers have been looking into ways to cure the disease or to grow a strain of citrus resistant to the bacteria.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at

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