To any orange juice fans reading this (except for those who like it in their cereal), apologies in advance.
Florida — a state whose license plates feature oranges, whose official flower is the orange blossom, whose official beverage is OJ, and whose citrus market is valued at $6.9B — is struggling to grow oranges.
The Agriculture Department estimates that the state’s farms will generate 15.75m 90-pound boxes of oranges this season. That may sound like a lot, until you realize that, just two decades ago, Florida was pumping out 250m+.
Let’s peel back the rind on this
It’s been a rough couple of decades for orange producers, per The Washington Post:
- Insects that cause an incurable bacterial disease among trees, known as greening, arrived in Florida in 1998, spurring a rapid (and ongoing) production decline.
- In recent years, hurricanes and cold spells have accelerated that decline.
- Brazil, which is typically an additional source of oranges, is also weathering its own weather-related shortages.
You don’t have to be Janet Yellen to know what happens when supplies drop — OJ prices in January were up 20%+ from 2016, according to The Wall Street Journal.
As yields declined, two-thirds of processors shut their doors between 2006 and 2016, and some of those still around are weighing a pivot to other crops.
The hope: that University of Florida scientists, who are working to develop greening-resistant citrus trees, can quickly work some miracles.