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Florida orange growers struggle to keep the juice flowing

Florida orange farmers are suffering devastating supply and labor issues. The state’s orange production is projected to hit historic lows in 2023, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicting 18 million boxes to enter the retail market, the lowest orange supply to come out of the Sunshine State since 1937. That’s an estimated 56% drop in Florida’s orange exports year-over-year, while peak orange production sits at 244 million boxes.

A crop freeze, Hurricane Ian and citrus greening disease; these three elements have forced many Florida growers to downsize operations or close their doors altogether. With less labor and producers creating a lower supply of oranges, the fruit’s retail price has surged. A spokesperson for the USDA stated last week that the crop in Florida this year is smaller than California for the first time in decades, due to the weather conditions and hurricanes.

At one point, Florida produced 90% of all domestic orange juice, but that number now floats closer to 50% as farms from Mexico and Brazil step in to help. And even if Florida growers manage to increase production, it's going to be some time before that produces any effects. This means that the current prices are here to stay for a while.

An upcoming report from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is slated to estimate that Hurricane Ian caused more than $1 billion worth of damage to the state’s agriculture industry, including $247 million in citrus damages.


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