Orange you glad you’re not in the orange industry right now?

From Florida’s farmers to everyday consumers, people are feeling the pain.

To any orange juice fans reading this (except for those who like it in their cereal), apologies in advance.

boxes of orange produced by year

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.

Topics: Agriculture

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