Bug Bites Cut Florida Orange Crop to Lowest in 2 Decades

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A gnat-sized insect, the Asian citrus psyllid, forced Dean Mixon to replace about 1,000 orange trees in the past two years on the 50-acre Florida farm his grandfather started in the 1930s. The bug spreads a disease called citrus greening, causing fruit to shrink and drop early.

“This is the worst we ever had to deal with,” said Mixon, 62. “Young trees can’t develop strong roots, and the quality of the fruit is also affected. We have been able to slow the spread of the disease, but not eradicate it.”

2Florida, the world’s largest orange grower after Brazil, will harvest 121 million boxes of the fruit in the season that began Oct. 1, the fewest since 1990, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates. Orange-juice futures in New York will rally 16 percent to $1.6465 a pound by the end of June, up from $1.4215 today, according to the average estimate of nine traders and analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.

Futures entered a bull market this month as dry weather compounds the damage from citrus greening. Some types of oranges, including early and mid-season varieties, are projected to drop prematurely from trees at the highest level since 1961, the USDA said Dec. 10. The shrinking crop may boost costs for companies including Pepsico Inc. (PEP), the maker of Tropicana juices, and Coca Cola Co., which sells Minute Maid and Simply Orange brands. U.S. consumers spend about $1.45 billion on the juice annually. Read More

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