How did Hurricane Irma impact the Florida Citrus groves?
Hurricane Irma caused wide-spread damage across the state. Every citrus-producing county in Florida was affected. Early estimates of trees with fruit on the ground range from 30 to 70 percent, depending on the region. In some areas, there is as much as 90 percent fruit loss. Many trees also experienced root damage due to flooding and a large number of trees were uprooted. It may take months for growers to gauge the true scale of the impact of Hurricane Irma.
According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Florida Citrus industry sustained more than $760 million in damages.
How does the damage compare to previous hurricanes?
It’s too early to tell. Florida Citrus growers have faced numerous challenges in the past, including freezes and hurricanes, but they are resilient and have always recovered.
What Florida Citrus areas in the state were most affected?
Due to the size and path of the storm, the entire Florida Citrus industry was affected. The southern Florida Citrus areas were affected the most but the damage is wide spread across the state.
What are the main challenges facing Florida Citrus growers now?
In addition to the impacts of Hurricane Irma, Florida Citrus growers have been battling citrus greening (or HLB), an agricultural crop disease, since 2005. This disease is spread by an insect called the Asian citrus psyllid. The psyllid feeds on the stems and leaves of the trees, infecting the trees with the bacteria that causes citrus greening. Greening impairs the tree’s ability to take in nourishment, ultimately resulting in fewer and smaller fruit over time. Once a tree is infected, there is no cure. The Florida Citrus industry now produces about a third of the oranges as it did in 2003-04 when it had 242 million boxes of oranges. The industry ended the 2016-17 season in June with 68.7 million boxes. Due to the industry’s efforts in battling this disease, things were starting to turn around. Before Hurricane Irma, Florida Citrus growers were expecting 75 million boxes, the first crop size increase in years. A major hurricane anytime is bad but especially so right now as growers were a month away from the beginning of harvest season.
How important is the Florida Citrus industry to the state of Florida?
The Florida Citrus industry contributes $8.6 million to the state of Florida and supports 45,000 jobs. For more information and the full economic impact report, click here.
Florida is the largest producer of 100% orange juice in the U.S. and second in the world to Brazil. Florida produced 68.7 million boxes of oranges in 2016-17 season. More than 95 percent of oranges grown in Florida are used to produce orange juice.
Will the price of orange juice increase due to Hurricane Irma?
With supply affected, prices will most likely increase. However, consumers will not see an increase immediately.
The orange juice futures market is up now – what does this mean for Florida Citrus?
The orange juice futures market may not accurately portray the Florida Citrus industry as it is based on the frozen concentrate market while the majority of Florida Oranges are sold as Not-From-Concentrate orange juice (or NFC).
What are the next steps for Florida Citrus growers?
The Florida Citrus industry is working with state and federal agencies to secure assistance to help with recovery efforts. Growers who can replant will. Florida Citrus growers need America’s support now more than ever. Keep buying Florida Orange Juice and fresh Florida Citrus. More information on federal funding efforts can be found here.