Florida orange crop will

rebound, but still low

BARTOW, Fla. Florida will rebound from a bad citrus crop last season with a 30 percent increase in orange production this year, the federal government predicted Friday. But major orange juice makers said consumers shouldn’t expect prices to fall.

The United States Department of Agriculture orange forecast for Florida is 168 million boxes, each of which weighs 90 pounds. Last year, the state hauled just 129 million boxes, its worst season since devastating freezes in the 1980s.

Florida is by far the nation’s leading citrus producer, but crop diseases, hurricanes and drought have crippled production the past few years. The state’s $9 billion industry routinely produced more than 200 million boxes from 1999 until 2004.

Mortgages rise after

employment report

WASHINGTON -Rates on 30-year mortgages edged up slightly this week following a better-than-expected report on job growth.

Freddie Mac reported Thursday that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.40 percent this week, up from 6.37 percent last week.

In mid-September, the nationwide average for 30-year mortgages had dipped to 6.31 percent, the lowest level since May 17.

Analysts attributed this week’s rise in mortgage rates to a better-than-expected jobs reports showing that the economy created a solid 110,000 jobs in September and, even more significantly, a drop of 4,000 jobs in August was revised away. New data showed the economy actually created a respectable 89,000 jobs in August.

Rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.06 percent this week, up from 6.03 percent.

Rates on five-year adjustable rate mortgages averaged 6.12 percent, up from 6.11 percent last week. One-year ARMs averaged 5.73 percent, up from 5.58 percent.

U.S. working with China

on product safety issues

WASHINGTON Bush administration officials and their Chinese counterparts sought Friday to nail down a plan to ensure the safety of products they export to the United States.

Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, declined to discuss specific steps that China agreed to take to improve safety. However, he did say that Chinese health officials will come to Washington later this month to finalize details of a “memorandum of agreement” between the two countries.

Chinese food and other products ranging from seafood to toothpaste to toys are under intense scrutiny because they have been found to contain potentially deadly substances.

On Thursday, investigators with the House Energy and Commerce Committee reported that the food supply chain in China fails to meet international safety standards. The investigators said a lack of internal regulation in that country requires a much more vigorous program of inspections and testing than the FDA has been willing to pursue to date.

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