TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s struggling citrus industry is projected to see a 3.3 percent increase in production in the newly started growing season.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in its first citrus forecast for the 2019-20 season that will run through July, projected Florida growers will produce enough oranges to fill 74 million of the industry-standard 90-pound boxes, which would top the 71.6 million boxes during the 2018-19 season.

Grapefruit production is predicted to increase from 4.31 million boxes in the past season to 4.6 million boxes. And specialty crops, such as tangerines and tangelos, also will go up from 990,000 boxes to 1.05 million boxes, U.S. Department of Agriculture State Statistician Mark Hutson said Thursday in a conference call to announce the October estimates.

State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried released a statement that said the forecast "reflects the resilience of Florida’s citrus growers, dedication to the citrus industry and commitment to innovation in the face of challenges."

The industry has for more than a decade seen acreage and production numbers decrease as it battles deadly citrus-greening disease, along with development pressures and changes in drinking habits.

Florida Citrus Commission Chairman Ellis Hunt called the newly released outlook "a positive indicator that the Florida citrus industry is coming back."

Florida Department of Citrus Executive Director Shannon Shepp added that the forecast "reflects what we’ve been hearing from growers."

"Florida citrus is here to stay," Shepp said. "We remain the state’s signature crop and our growers are committed to providing nutritious, great tasting Florida citrus for years to come."

Fried has asked state lawmakers as they piece together the budget for next fiscal year to include $8 million for citrus research projects, $7.4 million for citrus health and fighting pests and diseases and $2.5 million to support the Citrus Inspection Trust Fund.

Legislators approved $18 million for citrus-greening research in the current fiscal year.

This story was originally published by PalmBeachPost.com and shared to GateHouse Media’s Florida websites.