Hurricane Ian Shrinks Florida Orange Crop to Lowest Levels Since WWII

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Orange may be the new black, but the industry finds itself in the red in Florida.

In the wake of Hurricane Ian’s devastation, the Orange State will produce just 28 million boxes of its marquee agricultural export, according to a report published Wednesday by the US Department of Agriculture. That marks the lowest harvest since 1943.

Pulp Friction

In all, the remaining crop will make up just over two-thirds of what the state produced last year. But the loss marks more of an accelerant of a trend than a catastrophe-induced hiccup. Florida is now in the midst of a four-year annual decline in orange production, and the slump isn’t likely to end anytime soon.

While Hurricane Ian is most responsible for squashing any chance of a harvest comeback this year, competition way to the west and a killer tree disease have long threatened to sunset the sunshine state’s status are the top dog of orange production:

  • Florida ruled orange production in the US as recently as 2005, when it still grew over 80% of the country’s orange crop. But in that same year, scientists discovered a crop-destroying bacterial disease that’s ransacked the state’s farms; Florida now produces around 42% of the nation’s non-tangerine citrus fruits, according to Department of Agriculture statistics.
  • California, America’s other favorite sunny state, has stepped in in the interim. Last year, the Golden State nudged past Florida in orange production — producing 52 million boxes to Florida’s 51.7 million; two decades ago, Florida grew over 220 million boxes, five times what California did, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Orange You Sad? Of course, the lost crop is going to cost Tropicana guzzlers. Orange juice futures rose nearly 1% Wednesday on ICE Futures US, and have increased about 50% in the past year. Brazil, another top grower, has faced production woes as well this year, Bloomberg reports. Orange lovers know when life gives you lemons…