- The Florida orange crop was down 14% in 2015-2016, with the lowest yield since 1963-1964, according to an article in Food Business News. Florida's oranges are mainly used in juice.
- Citrus greening disease has devastated Florida orange crops in recent years, leading to a bearing-area reduction from 624,900 acres in 1997 to 387,000 acres in 2016.
- Orange production nationwide is down. California oranges, mainly used for eating, are down 7%, and Texas orange crops are reduced by a fifth.
Oranges seem to be the exception to the rule in 2016, a time when agricultural commodities — from corn and soy to dairy to eggs — are at record high levels. Other fruit producers are seeing record high yields, which has led to massive unused fruit dumps and questions about appropriate amounts of produce to import and export.
It remains to be seen if the Florida orange shortage will have a negative effect on the food market, since juice's popularity has been on the decline. Efforts to pump up the orange juice market have been challenged by consumer opinions about orange juice, which was once a breakfast staple but is now seen by some as junk food because of its high sugar content. The fruit itself has become more popular because of healthier eating trends and consumer desire for less processed food.
Manufacturers are trying to get consumers back to juice, introducing new flavor mash-ups and using cold-pressing to produce juice with fewer additives and a longer shelf life. A return to 100% juice is also touted as a way to reinvigorate the category.
But manufacturers should be cautious to try to keep oranges in the mix if there is a juice renaissance. Otherwise, Florida orange growers may face the same problem that egg producers currently have after last year's avian flu epidemic: Too much product after scarcity forced manufacturers to find substitutes.