A very bad orange harvest means that prices have almost doubled
If a breakfast without orange juice really is like a day without sunshine, then we should prepare for some pretty dark days ahead. The Guardian reports that Florida is experiencing the worst orange harvest since harvest records began, causing prices to shoot up and sales of the juice to drop. The root of the problem (pun intended, which will make sense in a moment) is in the trees (see, there’s the pun), which have been hit hard with disease — not to mention the hurricanes that plague the state every year. The US Department of Agriculture states that the 2016 orange harvest will be just 70 million boxes, which is a 14 percent drop from last year, and an even bigger drop from the turn of the century when 230 million boxes of oranges made their way into our glasses.
This shortage has caused orange juice prices to nearly double in the past thirteen months. Orange juice futures on the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) were at $1.03 a pound in September 2015 but have quickly crept to $2.05. This number is predicted to reach $2.20 by the end of 2016.
While the orange crop began taking a hit back in 2005 thanks to a bacterium that causes huanglongbing, or citrus greening, it’s spread by the Asian citrus psyllid (in other words, a bug). The Asian citrus psyllid has been having a whale of a time getting swept across all of Florida by hurricanes and into any orange crops that weren’t already destroyed by the wind.
To be fair, this isn’t the first time the orange industry has taken a hit. Back in the 1970s, members of the LGBT community boycotted the drink after spokesperson for the Florida Citrus Commission Anita Bryant declared a war on homosexuality, fighting nondiscrimination laws and describing the community as a “seed of sexual sickness.”
In response, bars under San Francisco’s Tavern Guild began posting signs reading, “TO PROMOTE HUMAN RIGHTS this establishment DOES NOT SERVE FLORIDA ORANGE JUICE or orange juice from CONCENTRATE.” Politician Harvey Milk urged people to switch to pineapple juice for breakfast. When the nondiscrimination ordnance was knocked down by a two-to-one margin, people were despondent. “We are giving up orange juice,” they declared.
While 2016 is kinder to the LGBT community, it seems oranges are bearing the brunt of Anita Bryant’s bad karma. “Farmers are giving up and turning to other crops or turning land over to housing,” Judith Ganes, president of the commodities research firm J Ganes Consulting, told The Guardian. “To get round the price rise, they are making the cartons smaller or blending orange with other fruits or water.”
However, Andrew Meadows of Florida Citrus Mutual is still hopeful. “We’ve been through things like this before,” he emphasized. “We’re not packing up and giving up on the industry.” In the meantime, mimosa ratios could be a little off. On second thought, we’ll just have champagne.