The Squeeze On Florida's Orange Crops

Oct 9, 2017

With guest host Jane Clayson

Florida’s orange industry is feeling the squeeze from disease, hurricanes, and climate change. Can it be saved?

Oranges. As synonymous with Florida as sunshine and Disney World. Citrus is a nearly $10 billion industry there. But a disease called “citrus greening” has Florida’s orange industry in crisis. And that was before Hurricane Irma hit. Flooding groves. Knocking fruit off trees. There’s also foreign competition. And lower demand – people drinking less OJ. This hour, On Point: the big squeeze on Florida citrus. — Jane Clayson.

Guests

Julie Wernau, reporter for the Wall Street Journal who covers emerging markets and soft commodities. (@littlewern)

Michael Rogers, director of the Citrus Research and Education Center at the University of Florida. Professor of Entomology and Nematology at the university.

Brantley Schirard, production manager at Blue Goose Growers. Vice president of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation.

From The Reading List

The Wall Street Journal: Why Your Orange Juice Might Be From Brazil: Florida’s Trees Are Dying — “A disease called “citrus greening” is pushing Florida’s orange juice industry toward the brink of collapse. Greening starts at the leaves and works its way through the tree like a hardening of the arteries, blocking nutrients and water. Oranges drop off branches unripe and unusable. This year’s crop will likely be the smallest since the 1940s. So miserable is the condition of Florida’s orange industry that farmers are banking on inventing a genetically engineered orange that will be ready for sale—at the earliest—in 2022.”

The Washington Post: Hurricane Irma May Speed The End Of Orange Juice, America’s Biggest Source Of ‘Fruit’ — “It could even be the knockout blow for a product — orange juice — that has been slipping in popularity among Americans, although the beverage still ranks as the country’s favorite “fruit.” The most recent estimates of the widespread damage to Florida’s orange trees put the statewide losses as high as 70 percent. That could lead to orange shortages, price hikes and, for farmers, lost harvests — all on top of a debilitating plant disease called citrus greening and a long-term national decline in orange juice consumption.”

Popular Science: Climate Change Threatens American Agriculture — “You may already be mourning the fact that climate change rings the death knell for beloved foreign grown foods like chocolate and coffee, but a recent study in Nature Communications brings the bad news closer to home. The study found that climate change is also going to hurt domestic staples—wheat, corn, and soybeans—with their yields dropping each day the crops experience temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher. For each day that corn and soybeans fields spend at these temperatures, the study found, yield drops by up to six percent.”

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