LAKELAND, Fla. -

Citrus harvesting began earlier this month and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is projecting that Florida's orange crop will increase by 5 percent from last year.

But despite that, experts say, the forecast is still below pre-season estimates, which could push prices higher at the supermarket, as growers deal with fewer crops.

The Ledger of Lakeland reports that the USDA forecast says Florida growers will produce 154 million boxes of oranges.

It estimated the state's grapefruit crop at 20.3 million boxes, up 8 percent; tangerines at 4.4 million boxes, up 3 percent; and tangelos at 1.2 million boxes, a 4 percent increase.

Citrus harvesting should run into June.

The USDA says Polk County leads the state's citrus-producing counties with 82,572 grove acres and 9.9 million trees in 2012.

It historically leads in citrus production, as it did in the 2011-12 season.

It ranked No. 1 in orange, tangerine and tangelo production and third in grapefruit.