The Florida all orange forecast released by the USDA Agricultural Statistics Board is 162 million boxes, down 3 million boxes from last month.

The decrease is entirely in the early- mid-season Navel (including Temples) portion of the crop now forecast at 84 million boxes. The Valencia portion is unchanged at 78 million boxes.

If realized, this forecast would be five percent less than last season’s harvest, but 26 percent more than the 2006-07 production.

In the past eight non-hurricane seasons, the January forecast has differed from actual production by an average of 3.4 percent, with five forecasts higher and three lower.

Estimated utilization to Jan. 1 is 34 million boxes, compared to 29.2 million boxes actual utilization the same time last season.

The forecast of early-mid-season-Navel oranges (including Temples) is lowered from 87 million boxes to 84 million boxes. If realized, the forecast will be less than one percent greater than last season’s actual production and the most harvested since 2003-04. The route survey conducted Dec. 29-30, 2008 showed 32 percent of the rows harvested, below the average of the past 10 seasons. Objective survey measurements taken in December are the final components used in the forecast model.

The fruit size projected earlier in the season to be near, but below average, was not attained. The smaller size requires an additional eight pieces of fruit to fill a 90-pound equivalent box.

Droppage continued at an above average rate and the projected final droppage is slightly above the previous projection.

Navels account for 3 million boxes of the category, down from 3.1 million boxes from last month, based upon the current utilization and results of the route survey. About 84 percent of the rows are harvested, which is considerably higher than the average of the previous 10 seasons.

The Valencia forecast remains at 78 million boxes. Objective survey measurements resulted in slight, offsetting changes in the projections due to a slower growth rate and lighter droppage. Current fruit size and the final projection are below average.

Compared to the previous projection, it will take an additional three pieces of fruit to fill a 90-pound equivalent box. Current drop and the final projection are below average. Very limited harvest has begun.