In Florida, the world's second largest producer of orange juice after Brazil, the citrus groves have been suffering. Not just from Hurricane Ian that uprooted so many trees last fall; it has also been suffering from the citrus tree disease Huanglongbing for the last 17 years.
A bacteria spread by an insect, the Asian psyllid, causes the disease, which makes trees produce a green, bitter fruit that is unsuitable to sell, before dying within a few years.
The double crises of Ian and HLB have wreaked havoc on the industry. Orange production in Florida is down 60.7 percent from last season, one of the lowest figures since the 1930s, according to US Department of Agriculture estimates. The hurricane alone caused the state's citrus sector losses of $247.1 million, among $1.03 billion to the overall agricultural economy, according to estimates from the University of Florida.
Most recent US citrus crop forecast down 15 percent from 2021/22
The most recent U.S. citrus crop forecast (March 2023) for 2022/23 is 4.8 million tons, down 15 percent from the 2021/22 final utilized total of 5.6 million tons. As of the March 2023 USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Crop Production report, the U.S. all-orange production is forecast at 2.6 million tons, down 25 percent from final production for the 2021/22 season. Production of grapefruit is expected to reach 328,000 tons down 12 percent from the 2021/22 season. Lemons, 95 percent of which are supplied by farms in California, are also expected to be down from last year by 9 percent (100,000 tons). Tangerines are the only citrus commodity expected to see increases over last season’s production levels, with 904,000 tons expected in 2022/23, an increase of 23 percent over last season (2021/22).
Tree nut grower prices moving higher in early 2023
Fruit grower prices in 2023 began the year strong, denoted by the higher grower price index for fruit and nuts in January. At 155.4 (2011=100), the index was up from the January 2022 index of 134.8 and 28 percent higher than the January 2018–20 index average of 121.8 (figure below). The index for prices received for fruit and tree nuts in January 2023 is the second highest since the beginning of the index in 1990, behind October 2022. Significantly higher grower prices for apples, strawberries, and grapefruit as well as fresh pears strengthened the January index—the largest year-to-year gain since 2014.