LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - Florida is forecasted to produce 28 million boxes of oranges this season, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). That would be the lowest yield since 1942.
The USDA says the research was mostly done before Hurricane Ian, so things could get worse. "There’s been better times in citrus," orange grower Owen Conner told FOX 35.
Conner says more growers are leaving the market. For consumers, that could mean more oranges coming from other countries. While that will likely make the product more expensive, Conner says it will be mostly up to retailers to decide how much prices will increase.
In Lake County, Conner's oranges were spared from Hurricane Ian's strong winds and flooding, but groves further south in the storm's direct path won't be so lucky. "If the soil gets saturated, you get two processes," Conner said. "One’s called oxidation, the other nitrification, and it will basically rot the roots off, so you’re in big trouble."
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It could mean big trouble for citrus growers already dealing with the spread of a bacterial disease that has been killing their trees in recent years. "The cost of fighting that for a lot of those growers is $2,000 an acre," Conner said. "And that’s just not tenable. It won’t work, and they’ve had years of this."
The USDA's next report won't come out until December.