The Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC) has dashed hopes for lower grapefruit prices, even though grapefruit production this season is set to increase for the first time in six years.

As picking for the 2012/13 season began last week, the Floridian harvest was forecast at 20.3 million boxes, 7.7% more than last year’s. This is the first year-on-year rise since 2006/7, as the state has grappled with the impact of a disease affecting citrus trees.

But Mike Yetter, director of international marketing at the FDOC, said he did not expect wholesale prices of Florida grapefruit in the UK to fall, as strong demand caused by supply issues in growing areas such as South Africa would continue. “The pipeline needs to be filled,” he said.

Yetter expected grapefruit volumes shipped to the UK from Florida this season to rise by up to 8%, in line with the higher production levels.

The UK is the second most important European export destination for Florida’s grapefruit growers, with 560,000 cartons shipped to the UK last year.

The first new-season grapefruit are expected to hit retailers’ shelves at the end of the month.