Hurricane Ian violently hit Florida, the leading orange-producing region in the United States, whose crops were also recently affected by the so-called yellow dragon disease.
The price of orange juice soared on Monday, pushed by fears that the passage of Hurricane Ian could reduce the harvest in Florida, one of the two major production regions in the United States.
The frozen concentrated orange juice futures contract for November delivery rose as high as $2.01 per pound (about 450 grams) for the first time in almost six years (December 2016). Hurricane Ian, which swept through Florida last week, could have caused a total of between 28 and 47 billion dollars in damage, according to an estimate by the specialized firm CoreLogic.
Significant fruit drops
During his stay in Florida, Ian notably crossed Polk County, the state’s leading orange-producing region. “In areas of the citrus belt“, the great citrus-growing region located in South Florida, “many fruits have fallen from their trees,” said the Federation of Florida Bureaus of Agriculture.
Ian’s visit took place in September, when orange picking begins, which lasts until June depending on the areas and varieties. “Our first observations revealed significant fruit drops,” said Alico, one of the two orange giants in Florida, with the group of Texas origin King Ranch, in a press release.
Referring to previous episodes of storms,” Alico continued, “we expect it will take at least two seasons for orchards to return to pre-hurricane production levels.”
Florida dethroned by California
Florida, the long-time leading orange-growing region of the United States, ceded its throne to California this year after being hit by the so-called yellow dragon disease, also known as Huanglongbing disease (HLB), which can disrupt the ripening of citrus fruits and cause the fruit to drop prematurely.
It is carried by the psylla, a tiny insect vector of a bacterium, which causes the yellowing of the leaves, then the deformation of the fruits, until it affects the whole tree, due to the narrowing of its vascular system. Affecting Florida for the first time in 2005, it contaminated almost all of the state’s orchards. There is no known treatment for this disease.
Production in Florida for the 2021-22 season, which ended in June, was down 23%. California had provided 55% of the production, against 44% in Florida.