According to the Guardian, orange juice futures have almost doubled to $2.60 per pound over the last year. A year prior, it was only $1.40.
The increase in orange futures also reverberated in the prices of orange juice in groceries. Back in January, orange juice not from concentrate (NFC) hit $10 a gallon. Orange juice from concentrate (FC) hit $6.27 per gallon during the same month.
According to a LiveStrong.com article from October 2019, NFC orange juice undergoes a shorter process because it is pasteurized directly after juicing. FC orange juice, on the other hand, undergoes a more complicated process by being deprived of excess water post-juicing to take up less space when transported. The exact amount of water is then added into the resulting concentrate and pasteurized.
Customers have also noticed the increase in prices. One TikTok user posted an 89-fluid-ounce bottle of orange juice he was holding while at a supermarket. The user remarked that the $7 price of the orange juice was "simply too high."
The higher prices highlights a serious problem for Florida, which is well known for both oranges and orange juice. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicted that the Sunshine State will produce 16 million 90-pound boxes of orange this harvest season, a 61 percent drop compared to the 41 million 90-pound boxes from last season. (Related: Florida orange crop drops to lowest level in years due to weather changes.)
Florida Citrus Mutual CEO Matt Joyner said in a Feb. 8 statement: "While the current crop size is a real disappointment, we're not giving up."
The Sunshine State's harvest woes served as an opportunity for Brazil, the world's largest exporter of orange juice. During the first four months of the orange harvest season, shipments of orange juice from the lone Portuguese-speaking country in South America went up by 58 percent.
A combination of extreme weather and disease has affected Florida's citrus groves.
Hurricane Ian tore through central Florida in September of last year, damaging many citrus plantations. Estimates from the University of Florida (UFL) pegged the damage to the state's agricultural sector at $1.07 billion. Of this amount, citrus growers bore $247 million in losses.
Aside from the effects of Hurricane Ian, the Sunshine State's orange industry has been dealing with citrus greening for over a decade. Citrus greening is caused by the Asian citrus psyllid (Diaphorina citri) that feeds on the stems and leaves of orange trees. D. citri then infects the trees it feeds on with the pathogen responsible for citrus greening.
Citrus greening affects the orange tree's circulation and nutrition status, eventually killing it after five years. Affected trees produce green, smaller, misshapen and bitter-tasting fruit. Asian citrus psyllids can be carried across the state by heavy winds, making hurricanes more lethal to the orange trees.
The disease was first identified in Florida in 2005. Ten years later in 2015, it was found in all citrus-producing counties in the Sunshine State. As much as 90 percent of their trees were infected, orange growers said that year.
In response, the state government has invested millions into researching and developing treatments for citrus greening over the years. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Tallahassee plans to allocate $29 million for protection and research in the citrus industry. Moreover, efforts to replant old and infected trees have been underway.
Individual growers have also done their part to fight citrus greening. They have experimented with nutritional supplements to help make trees stronger and trunk injections to help the orange trees fight the pathogen responsible for citrus greening. Researchers have also begun work on genetically modified citrus trees resistant to the disease.
"We've just had pressure from both sides of the spectrum, from weather-related events as well as dealing with [greening]," said Marisa Zansler, director of economic and market research for the Florida Department of Citrus. "The industry is working toward resolving a lot of these challenges and replanting, and it's going to take some time."
FoodInflation.news has more stories about the price increase of orange juice and other foods.
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