New estimates of Florida’s orange crop are not so sunshiney: The USDA is predicting the lowest production figures since 1945.
The current estimate is 44.5M 90-pound boxes, down 1.5M from last month’s forecast. Consumers may have to keep their eyes peeled for higher prices in the coming year.
What caused this? One notable culprit is a plant disease known as citrus greening. This disease has been a significant factor in Florida’s orange production decline for over 20 years, with a major drop of 18.1% occurring during the 1998-99 season.
Citrus greening at a glance:
- The spread is caused by a disease-infected insect, the Asian citrus psyllid.
- Infected trees produce fruits that are bitter, misshapen, green, and unsuitable for sale.
- Infected trees cannot be cured.
Soundbite: “The disappointment of another decline in the forecast is hard to overstate. But so too is the determination of Florida’s citrus growers who remain focused on delivering great-tasting and high-quality fruit while–simultaneously–seeking new solutions to citrus greening,” – Shelley Rossetter, assistant director of global marketing at the Florida Department of Citrus.
For some perspective: The last time Florida orange production was at current levels, Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, WWII had just concluded, Elvis Presley made his first public appearance at age 10 at the Mississippi Alabama Dairy Show, and the price of one pound of Ritz Crackers was 21 cents.