Florida oranges

Orange tree
Steve Webel / Flickr

Experts predict a spike in the price of Florida’s citrus this upcoming harvest season, meaning slightly more revenue for the state’s farmers. But an unexpected increase in orange production could keep retail prices low.

Citrus greening is a bacterial disease that’s cut Florida’s citrus crops in half since it first struck the state’s trees in 2005. The lower supply has helped farmers fetch higher prices per orange. But, former University of Florida professor of agricultural economics Tom Spreen says farmers are still having a hard time breaking even.

William Couch

The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts a roughly 6 percent drop in Florida orange production compared with last year. Orange growers are contending with a variety of challenges that have plagued them for the last decade.

Crop projections released Friday reflect long-term crop losses due mostly to citrus greening disease. Andrew Meadows is spokesman for Florida Citrus Mutual, a trade association representing 8,000 growers. He says, despite orange production falling by half in ten years, the industry remains optimistic.

Jessica Palombo / WFSU-FM

Half of all Florida citrus crops are infected with the incurable disease called greening. Today, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam thanked the Florida Legislature for making an unprecedented investment in research to try and stop it.

Greening is causing Florida citrus growers to lose 20-to-40 percent of their crop. The state’s investment of $9.5 million for research would be on top of the $60 million the industry itself has spent, plus money from the federal government. Putnam says, greening threatens Florida citrus’s very existence.  

The United States Department of Agriculture is projecting a decrease in Florida’s orange production. Ryan Benk reports estimates have the loss at about 2 million boxes.

Last month, officials estimated citrus growers would produce 147 million boxes of oranges for the year. But, due to a drop in orange juice consumption and an increase in plant disease, this year’s estimate is declining. Now officials are expecting that number to be closer to 145 million. Spokesman for Florida Citrus Mutual Andrew Meadows says the biggest issue is plant disease.