Difficult growing season in Florida plagues price of orange juice


(NEW YORK) — Oranges are synonymous with Florida, but between extreme weather and widespread citrus disease in the sunshine state, the fruit has failed to produce the same yield as years past, sending prices soaring.

Earlier this month the United States Department of Agriculture predicted Florida will produce 16 million 90-pound boxes of oranges, which is a 61% drop compared with last season, when 41 million boxes were produced. The fall is drastic compared to the ’90s, when Florida produced 200 million boxes per year.

Overall food prices rose 9.9% in 2022, according to the USDA, and earlier this year the agency predicted that would increase to 7.1%.

After months of sticker shock at the store and consumer complaints of skyrocketing prices on products like eggs, now orange juice is another pricey pain point.

Orange juice futures — contracts to buy and sell OJ — have nearly doubled over the last year to $2.32 per pound, which has led to price increases at stores.

Earlier this year, fresh orange juice, not from concentrate, hit $10 a gallon, and juice from concentrate hit $6.27 per gallon.

While Florida has long been the top purveyor of orange juice in the U.S., Brazil leads as the top global exporter for orange juice. Shipments from Brazil are up by 58% so far this season, as first reported by Bloomberg.

The damage sustained during hurricane season after Category 4 Ian slammed central Florida’s citrus groves in September further set back production and yield. That paired with extreme weather like deep freezes with a widespread bout of citrus greening disease, which has also plagued some orange juice producers.

According to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, citrus greening — also known as Huanglongbing (HLB) — is one of the most serious citrus plant diseases with no cure spread by a disease-infected insect that causes crops to produce green and bitter fruits, unusable for sale as fresh whole fruit or juice.

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