Oct 12, 2022 - Economy

Florida orange crop declines after Hurricane Ian damage

Fallen oranges on the ground

Fallen oranges on the ground following Hurricane Ian at the Mixon Fruit Farms orchard in Bradenton, Florida, Oct. 5, 2022. Initial damage estimates to Florida groves from Hurricane Ian pointed to a significant crop loss from high winds. Photo: Tristan Wheelock/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida’s orange crop this year will be nearly a third smaller than last year, and one of the smallest in decades after Hurricane Ian devastated citrus groves last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Wednesday.

Why it matters: A smaller citrus crop could lead to higher prices, and orange prices have already increased 14.4% over the past year with inflation as of August, according to the Consumer Price Index.

  • Juices and nonalcoholic beverages rose 13.1% year-over-year, the CPI showed.

Driving the news: California is projected to surpass Florida as the top orange producer in the country for the 2022-2023 harvest, according to Wednesday's report.

By the numbers: Florida’s orange crop is expected to be the smallest since the early 1940s, according to historical data. Wednesday's USDA report showed:

  • The forecast for all Florida oranges for 2022-2023 is 28 million boxes, compared to 41 million in 2021-2022, down from 67.4 million boxes in 2019-2020.
  • California is projected to produce nearly 62% of the nation's oranges with 47.1 million 80-pound boxes, up from 40.4 million last year but down from 54.1 in 2019-2020.
  • The U.S. total for all oranges for 2022-2023 is forecasted at 76.3 million down from 81.7 million last year and 122.8 million in 2019-2020.

Meanwhile, orange juice futures rose as much as 0.8% to $1.92 a pound, a 50% increase in the last 12 months, Bloomberg reports.

Flashback: Florida's crop decline is not just damage from Hurricane Ian. In January, the crop was expected to be the smallest in over 75 years with a projected 44.5 million 90-pound boxes, the Associated Press reported.

  • Citrus greening, a bacteria that can cause fruit drops and kill citrus trees, is part of the reason for the quarter-century slide.

What they’re saying: Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said Hurricane Ian ravaged 375,000 acres of commercial citrus and the forecast will be “an invaluable baseline” in predicting additional crop loss.

  • “It is heartbreaking to see such an iconic Florida industry hurting right now,” Fried said in a statement, pledging her support to citrus growers.

What’s next: Expect more imports from other countries. A USDA report from July said "favorable weather in Brazil and Turkey leads to larger crops that more than offset" lower production in Egypt, the European Union and the U.S.

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