If you enjoy a nice glass of orange juice every morning with breakfast, be prepared for it to get a lot more expensive. Hurricane Irma’s path through Florida decimated citrus groves, uprooting trees and tearing immature fruits from branches. Some Florida citrus farmers have called the storm damage the worst devastation they’ve ever seen, which will have a definite impact on citrus prices in the future.
The US Department of Agriculture had predicted that Florida would produce over half of the nation’s oranges and nearly half of the country’s grapefruit this year. Those figures will change drastically in the aftermath of Irma, which left some groves with 50 or 60 percent of their fruit on the ground. Many of the trees that escaped the wind damage were still subject to flooding or standing water, conditions which could kill citrus trees, which prefer dry roots and well-drained soil.
The full extent of the damage won’t really be felt until harvest time when farmers will finally find out how much of their crop was lost to the hurricane. Orange juice futures prices shot up over 20 percent from their late-August prices in the days before the storm, and they still remain elevated. That will translate to higher prices not just for orange juice, but other citrus juices and citrus fruits as well.
Florida is the world’s second-largest producer of orange juice, behind Brazil, and its citrus industry had been expected to produce 10 percent more product in 2018 than in 2017. That obviously won’t happen, and production could suffer in the years to come if damaged trees fail to produce in the future.
Many citrus growers are banding together to lobby the federal government for financial assistance to weather the crisis. Their list of demands ranges from disaster assistance for small farmers, to share the cost of planting new trees, to an accelerated depreciation schedule for writing off the cost of planting trees.