The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its March orange crop forecast for the 2010-2011 season, increasing its earlier estimate by 4 million boxes to 142 million boxes.

“The late maturing crop and the freeze has complicated the forecasting,” said Michael W. Sparks, executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. “This should put us closer to the final season number, but the crop estimate is an ongoing process.”

Visit http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Florida/Publications/Citrus/cpfp.htm for the complete USDA estimate. The USDA makes its initial forecast in October and then revises it monthly until the end of the season in July.

The entire increase is due to an uptick in early and mid-season varieties which grew by 4 million to 70 million while the projection for Valencias remained at 72 million boxes this season.

For Florida specialty fruit, the USDA’s tangelo estimate increased by 100,000 boxes to 1.1 million boxes, while the tangerine forecast held steady at 4.4 million.

The USDA estimate for grapefruit remained unchanged at 19.6 million boxes.

The all variety yield for from frozen concentrated orange juice (FCOJ) remained at 1.57 gallons per 90-pound box. The Valencia yield dropped to 1.62 from 1.64 per box.

The Florida citrus industry creates a $9 billion annual economic impact, employing nearly 76,000 people, and covering about 560,000 acres.

Founded in 1948 and currently representing nearly 8,000 grower members, Florida Citrus Mutual is the state’s largest citrus grower organization. For more information, visit http://www.flcitrusmutual.com.