By Angela Spears
First Coast News
ST. JOHNS COUNTY, FL -- Floridians may see fewer oranges at produce stands and grocery stores in the next few months. Experts say it's getting harder to grow oranges in the Sunshine State. Therefore, the Citrus Industry could see a potential orange shortage.
Some experts blame the shortage on the weather. Florida can go without rain for months and then hurricane season comes and the state can get lots of rain and bad weather, especially the last two years. Other reasons it may be harder to grow oranges are three diseases that kill and damage citrus trees and fruit continue to spread and there are fewer acres of trees.
The Citrus Industry is big business in Florida. It's a $9 billion industry that employees more than 90,000 people. According to the website, Floridajuice.com, citrus has been farmed commercially in the state since mid-1800s. The early Spanish explorers planted the first orange tree in St. Augustine in the mid-1500s.
Growers will begin picking the harvest's first fruit this month. Already, some are saying this will be a rotten citrus season. According to two companies that calculate the number of boxes harvested a year, the numbers don't look good. One puts the orange harvest at 123 million boxes. The other puts the figure at 160 million boxes of oranges. The Florida Citrus Commission is a bit more optimistic. Its prediction is 167 million boxes. The average before all the hurricanes in 2004 and 2005 was 220 million boxes.
The manager at The Florida Orange Center, also known as The Florida Visitors Center, told First Coast News she had not heard about an orange shortage. She said, "We are seeing good (sweeter) oranges in earlier than usual."
So, what does all this mean for consumers? They could see fewer oranges on store shelves. They may see the price of orange juice continue to rise. Some numbers show the prices are up 8% this year and people are buying less o.j. Florida relies on the sale of orange juice to bring in lots of money. The state puts out more than 90% of all juice consumed in the United States.
First Coast News