A morning ritual for millions of Americans could be considerably more expensive in the coming months. Orange juice prices are expected to soar as Florida citrus growers are on track to harvest their lowest crop since the heart of the Great Depression.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates growers will only fill 15.65 million boxes of oranges this season. For comparison, the 2021-2022 season, which was considered disappointing, saw growers fill 41.2 million boxes. Twenty years ago, the average output for the state was in the neighborhood of 200 million boxes.
The shortfall is a result of back-to-back hurricanes in 2022 and a citrus greening disease. A hard freeze in January only exacerbated the issue.
Citrus is a $6.7 billion industry in Florida. And while California has since taken the lead at the nation’s biggest orange grower, there is some good news on the horizon for farmers in the Sunshine State. A treatment for the citrus greening issue is showing some promise. And state legislators have passed a bill which will provide $49.5 million in relief, a $12.5 million increase from this year. That bill is currently awaiting the signature of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Orange juice futures, on ICE Futures US, have increased by nearly 25% in the past three months and are up 71% in the past year.
Things could get worse. The USDA will issue further updates to its forecast in June and July.
While the problems in Florida are particularly bad this year, the citrus industry in general is suffering, due to climate change. A severe drought last season in California and Brazil, another top grower, drove prices higher earlier this year.
The U.S. is expected to import more oranges from Mexico to meet demand.