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Florida’s Orange Industry Has the Worst Prospects in 100 Years

Oranges hang from a tree at a commercial grove near Winter GOranges hang from a tree at a commercial grove near Winter G
Oranges hang from a tree at a commercial grove near Winter Garden, Florida, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2009.Photograph by Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida’s orange industry is experiencing the longest slump in at least 100 years.

The harvest, which began Oct. 1, is projected to be down 24 percent since last year—the lowest since 1964, according to Bloomberg. “This reduced forecast underscores the magnitude of the challenge facing the Florida Citrus industry,” said Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus, in a press release that downgraded orange harvest forecasts earlier in November.

It’s the fourth consecutive season of poor performance as the orange industry struggles to overcome a problem that some farmers are calling more insidious than hurricanes: a bug called the Asian citrus psyllid. The pests carry a bacterium that causes citrus greening—a disease that has already cost the industry more than $7.8 billion.

There’s no known cure for the disease, but industry lobbyists are pushing for $20 million in state investment to find a solution to citrus greening. Sounding the alarms in a state hearing on Nov. 13, Adam Putnam, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, told the Florida Senate Agriculture Committee: “We are impacting the heart of the industry. That is why time is of the essence.”

Frozen concentrated orange juice futures jumped to $1.4785 a pound on Nov. 22, an increase of 43 percent over this year’s low, Bloomberg reported.