Orange juice prices are likely headed higher. Hurricane Ian damaged what was already forecast to be the lowest Florida orange crop in decades. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said orange production in Florida is down by 32% from last season, marking the scantiest predicted harvest in nearly 80 years.
In an October citrus report, the agency said the all-orange forecast for the Sunshine State was 28 million boxes, compared to 41 million boxes the year before. That number includes 11 million boxes of non-Valencia oranges and 17 million boxes of Valencia oranges.
Additionally, the forecast of all grapefruit production is two million boxes, 40% less than last season’s utilization of 3.33 million boxes.
Prior to Hurricane Ian striking Southwest Florida as a Category 4 storm on Sept. 28, officials were forecasting the smallest U.S. orange crop in 55 years. Planted areas have been falling yearly due to real estate expansion and the spread of the greening fungus disease.
Soft commodities analyst Judy Ganes said last month that strong winds from Ian will likely transport the greening fungus from abandoned orange farms to renovated ones, wasting the work and investment of growers who are trying to expand citrus production.
In addition, weeks with consecutive cold fronts at the start of the bloom period reportedly damaged many groves, although drought conditions improved immensely across the region.
Orange grower Owen Conner, told FOX 35 Orlando that the department says things could get worse following Hurricane and that more growers are leaving the market.
The estimated number of bearing trees, planted in 2019 and earlier, for all oranges is 44 million.
The USDA said fieldwork for the latest Commercial Citrus Inventory was completed in June, and that attrition rates were applied to the results to determine the number of bearing trees.
The station said the state's orange production forecast would be the lowest yield since 1942.
The next report will not be released until December.
Although imports from Brazil and Mexico currently make up for most of the orange juice consumed in the United States, Florida's production was important to the industry since it is mostly the not from concentrate (NFC) variety, which has gained popularity among consumers compared to the older style, frozen concentrated orange juice (FCOJ).
Foreign suppliers prefer to export FCOJ since it takes less space in vessels and is easier to handle.
Reuters contributed to this report.