LAKELAND, Fla. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its January orange crop forecast for the 2010-2011 season, reducing its earlier estimate by 3 million boxes to 140 million boxes.

“The new estimate reflects fruit size which was smaller than anticipated and some preliminary effects of December’s cold weather,” said Michael W. Sparks, executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. “While the industry as a whole came through the cold in decent shape; we did have frozen fruit and leaf damage across most of the growing regions as well as more extensive damage in a few select areas, and this report reflects that.”

“No doubt there will be more changes to the monthly crop estimate reports as we move through the remainder of the season and the freeze damage becomes more apparent.”

The USDA makes its initial forecast in October and then revises it monthly until the end of the season in July.

The USDA estimate for grapefruit remained unchanged at 19.6 million boxes.  The forecast for early and mid-season varieties in Florida shrunk by 1 million to 67 million while the projection for Valencias also decreased by 2 million boxes to 73 million boxes this season. For Florida specialty fruit, the USDA’s tangelo estimate was reduced by 100,000 boxes to 1 million, while the tangerine forecast was reduced by 200,000 boxes to 4.2 million.

The all variety yield for from frozen concentrated orange juice (FCOJ) is remained at 1.61 gallons per 90-pound box, and the Valencia yield held steady at 1.70 per box.

The Florida citrus industry creates a $9 billion annual economic impact, employing nearly 76,000 people, and covering more than 576,000 acres.