Things aren’t looking so bright for the orange harvest in the Sunshine State.
Orange trees have been decimated by disease and hurricanes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicted this year’s harvest would yield 70 million boxes of oranges — a 14 percent drop from last year and a far cry from more “bountiful days” when more than 230 million boxes were produced yearly.
The root of these problems began in 2005, when a bacterium that “causes fruit to drop prematurely and eventually kills the [orange] trees” was found in southern Florida. The disease was then spread by Asian citrus psyllids, which transmit the disease, and was spread across Florida by hurricanes.
“Farmers are giving up on oranges altogether,” said Judith Ganes, president of the commodities research firm J Ganes Consulting. “Normally after a freeze or a hurricane [which both kill lots of trees], the growers would replant 100% of their plants. But the disease has been spread all over by hurricanes, and made it totally uncontrollable. Farmers are giving up and turning to other crops or turning land over to housing.”