TAMPA, Fla. - There could be a price hike for orange juice as forecasters are predicting the smallest orange crop since 1945.
The U.S. Agriculture Department expects Florida to produce more than 44 million 90-pound boxes of oranges. That figure is even lower than 2017’s crop, which was impacted by Hurricane Irma.
The state’s citrus industry department says citrus greening is to blame.
It’s an incurable disease that thins the crown of orange trees and diminishes their vitality. It was first discovered among Florida’s crops in 2005.
Earlier this month, a state court ruled in favor of 18,000 homeowners, saying they will be paid more than $42 million collectively by the state for destroying their citrus trees during an effort to eradicate the harmful citrus disease. The homeowners in Orange County will receive about $700 per healthy tree destroyed.
More than 60,000 healthy, uninfected trees were destroyed in Orange County between 2002 and 2006 as part of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' efforts to eradicate citrus canker, according to the lawsuit.
While unharmful to humans, citrus canker can cause the leaves and fruit of citrus trees to drop prematurely and create unappealing lesions on the fruit.
According to the Florida Department of State, the Sunshine State is one of the world’s largest producers of citrus. Ironically, its roots didn’t originate here.
Oranges didn’t reach the New World until 1493 when it was onboard ships commanded by Christopher Columbus. The first orange tree was likely planted around St. Augustine in the mid-1500s.
"Soon afterwards, the Spanish brought citrus to Florida. Florida Indians obtained seeds from Spanish missionaries and helped establish the growth of the fruit. The British were the first to grow citrus commercially and the endeavor continued after Florida became a US territory in 1821."
You can learn more about the history of Florida’s citrus industry here.
Today, it’s a $9 billion industry, according to Visit Florida, and employs nearly 76,000 Floridians.