Orange juice prices are headed for the roof after Florida growers were slammed by a heavy hurricane season last year, an early freeze and a fast-spreading disease that’s strangling the life out of orange groves.
“It’s like liquid gold,” commodities analyst Judy Ganes told the Journal.
An early freeze last January damaged budding trees and Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole last fall toppled and uprooted more trees. Growers also have been grappling with “citrus greening” — a disease in which trees shed their fruit prematurely because of attacks from an insect that reportedly came to the US from Asia more than a decade ago.
Florida produces 90% of the orange juice industry in the US.
The Agriculture Department said last week that Florida is expected to produce less than half the amount of last year’s crop in 2023 representing a 93% decline from the state’s peak output in 1998.
The oranges being produced now are also smaller.
For the first time, the Sunshine State will produce fewer oranges than California since World War II when the concentrated juice business started, according to the report. California oranges are mostly used for eating rather than juicing.
Florida orange groves have been steadily shrinking over the years as more consumers shun sugary juice drinks, which compounds the risk to the orange juice industry as there is less cushion when a crisis occurs.
Since the late 1990s the number of acres in Florida devoted to orange groves has fallen by nearly half, according to the report.