MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Add orange juice to the list of items you’ll be paying more for.
Florida’s orange crop is forecast to be the smallest crop in decades.READ MORE: Miami Beach’s Deauville Hotel, made famous by the Beatles, poised for a comeback
While much of the U.S. is blanketed in snow, Florida oranges are ripening in the sunshine. But the outlook for the state’s orange crop appears to be rather gloomy.
“It’s the signature crop of Florida. It’s our second biggest industry and to be in it, it’s troubling for sure,” said Louis Schacht, part-owner of Schacht Groves, a 150 citrus growing operation near Vero Beach.
He is not pleased with the latest USDA crop forecast that says Florida will produce about 44.5 million boxes of oranges in the 2021-2022 growing season, the smallest Florida crop since World War II. With that small of a crop, California will surpass Florida in orange production for the first time in recent years.
“It’s not surprising at all. Most of your mature trees now in Florida have been infected with citrus greening for a long time,” said Schacht.
Citrus greening is a plant disease, a bacteria that stunts the growth of the fruit, leaving it green and bitter to the taste. Eventually, it weakens the orange trees to the point where they’re no longer profitable.
Schacht says many of the citrus trees in Florida have been infected with citrus greening for 15 to 17 years.
“Given that much exposure and that much time, it’s not surprising that you’re seeing a small crop,” he said.
He says the fact that Florida’s orange crop will be smaller will have an impact on the price of orange juice in the supermarket.READ MORE: Property insurance changes aimed at stabilizing market
“I’m certain that it’ll bump it up a little bit, at least in the short term,” said Schacht.
He added that Brazil reportedly has a good orange crop this year, so juice makers will be able to get oranges there.
The Florida Department of Citrus released this statement regarding the USDA forecast about Florida’s 2021-2022 orange crop.
“The disappointment of another decline in the forecast is hard to overstate. But so too is the determination of Florida’s Citrus growers who remain focused on delivering great-tasting and high-quality fruit while – simultaneously – seeking new solutions to citrus greening.”
Schacht believes Florida may never again see the large orange crop that it once had.
“We’re just not planting enough trees as an industry to support that ’cause we’re losing more trees than we’re planting,” he said. “You’ll see groves in Florida but you won’t see widespread acreage like you have in the past.”
Schacht said he hopes the state will put more money into research to prevent citrus greening.
“It’s still a very risky proposition, so anything they can do to incentivize planting is a big deal,” he said.MORE NEWS: Coral Gables resident says city's automatic license plate recognition cameras are a constitutional violation
Schacht said the business is not all gloom and doom. There are still opportunities he said to make a living in the citrus business because so many people have left the industry that there is a future for those that remain and persist.