Valencia crop feels the squeeze, again

Juicy citrus variety is projected to have the smallest crop in more than a decade as California acreage continues to decline

CALIFORNIA – California growers are hoping to squeeze all they can out of this year’s Valencia orange crop as it is projected to be the smallest in more than a decade.

Earlier this month, the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) released its March 2022-23 Valencia orange forecast. The primary source of orange juice in the state was projected at 16.2 million cartons this year, down about a million cartons from last year. Growers have pulled about 1,000 acres year over year since 2010.

The season experienced scattered precipitation in some areas which caused a rainy start to the growing season. Survey data indicated an average fruit set per tree of 616, a 13.9% increase from the previous year and 12.2% above the five-year average of 549. The average March 1 diameter was 2.391 inches, down 2.8% from the previous year and 5.1% below the five-year average of 2.520.

Valencia orange production statistics show a general decline over the past seven years with over 22 million cartons produced in 2015/16. The decline is based on lower acreage of this juicy orange – down 5,000 acres since 2016 to 25,000 acres in the state. There were 40,000 bearing acres in 2012. One-third of the state’s Valencia acreage is in Tulare County.

The reduction in the availability of this fresh dose of Vitamin C comes as Florida’s juice orange supply has been collapsing, providing an opportunity for California growers to reverse course and perhaps do some new plantings of this flavor-filled orange variety.

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