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Grapefruit growers take a 'tough hit'

After several of months of declines, the outlook for Florida's struggling orange production remained steady from March to April.

However, the forecast for grapefruit continued a decline.

"It's a tough hit for Florida's grapefruit growers who have been so committed to fighting pest and disease to maintain this staple of Florida's economy," said Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus. "Florida grapefruit is, by far, what world consumers seek out for its unique flavor profile, sweetness and juiciness."

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's monthly forecast put Florida's citrus industry --- battling deadly citrus greening disease --- on pace to fill 8.1 million 90-pound boxes of grapefruit.

A month ago, the industry was forecast to fill 8.9 million boxes.

The outlook for grapefruit started the current season at 9.6 million boxes, down from 10.8 million boxes filled in 2015-2016.

Meanwhile, the statewide orange crop is on pace to fill 67 million 90-pound boxes, the same as predicted in March.

The industry had seen the forecast steadily drop for oranges from 72 million boxes in December to 71 million in January and 70 million in February.

The industry, which for a period in the 1990s annually filled more than 200 million boxes, filled a decades-low 81.6 million boxes of oranges during the 2015-2016 season.