Florida Orange Crop — Courtesy: Shutterstock — VAlekStudio
The next family favorite grocery store item shoppers could see skyrocketing in price is Florida orange juice. A cold snap in the Sunshine State had the potential to do extreme damage to farms across Central Florida over the weekend.
The low temperatures, close to freezing, are rare in Florida, but at first glance, the strawberry, citrus, and tomato winter crops suffered no major damage. Farmers spray water onto the crops to help protect them from the cold weather.
While the crops appeared to be untouched by the cold weather, Florida is on its way to producing the smallest orange crop in over 75 years, according to a forecast released the previous month.
The Sunshine State is expected to produce 44.5 million 90-pound boxes of oranges during the current season, according to a forecast released last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That is a 1.5 million box reduction from December’s previous forecast.
If the current forecast remains true throughout the rest of the citrus growing season, it will be the smallest orange crop since the 1944-1945 season when Florida produced 42.3 million boxes of citrus fruit. This is the smallest crop since World War II. The orange growing season in Florida lasts from fall into late spring.
For the first time in recent years, California will surpass Florida in orange production.
“The disappointment of another decline in the forecast is hard to overstate. But so too is the determination of Florida’s citrus growers, who remain focused on delivering great-tasting and high-quality fruit while – simultaneously – seeking new solutions to citrus greening,” said Shelley Rossetter, assistant director of global marketing at the Florida Department of Citrus, in a statement.
Florida’s orange production has been on a quarter-century downfall due to several environmental issues. Citrus greening, a bacteria that can cause massive fruit drops and kill citrus trees, as well as another disease that causes the fruit and leaves of citrus trees to fall prematurely while creating unappealing lesions on the fruit are all causes.
“Greening is the most difficult disease to ever impact citrus,” said Mike Sparks, executive director of Florida Citrus Mutual, a trade group representing thousands of fruit growers. He points to labor shortages, plastic packaging shortages, and other tricky supply chain logistics as additional challenges in recent months, but “greening is the primary cause of the reduction in the number of boxes. We’re going to see prices increase.”
January’s forecast for grapefruit remained unchanged from the previous month at 4.1 million boxes.
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Melissa’s career in writing started more than 20 years ago. Today, she lives in South Florida with her husband and two boys.