Florida Orange Crop Seen Plunging to 71-Year Low After Irma

October 12, 2017 03:49 PM

(Bloomberg) -- Florida’s orange production will plunge 21 percent to a 71-year low after damage wrought by Hurricane Irma devastated the harvest, while output of cotton also suffered in storm-hit areas, government figures showed.

Orange growers in Florida, the largest U.S. producer, will harvest 54 million boxes in the 2017-18 marketing year, the least since 1947 -- an era when citrus irrigation was rare -- the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a report Thursday. A survey of analysts conducted by Bloomberg indicated a crop of 58.2 million boxes. A box weighs 90 pounds, or 41 kilograms.

Irma, which dropped as much as 17 inches of rain on citrus- growing areas in a 24-hour period, made it impossible for farmers to reach their groves, with trees destroyed and fruit dropping to the ground unharvested, the USDA said.

Still, the USDA’s forecast was ahead of the 31 million boxes predicted by Florida Citrus Mutual, the state’s largest grower group, on Oct. 10. Orange juice for November delivery in New York fell as as much as 3.7 percent, before settling 2.3 percent lower at $1.589 a pound on ICE Futures U.S.

Florida growers group disputes USDA’s Florida orange crop estimate

Prices are also under pressure because Brazil, the top supplier, has ample stocks, is harvesting more, and will compensate for lower supplies from Florida, Burak Kazaz, professor of supply chain management at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, said in a telephone interview.

Irma caused an estimated $2.5 billion in damage to agriculture, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said Oct. 4. Preliminary estimates show $760.8 million in damage to the citrus industry. Texas’s state farm agency has yet to release a damage estimate for Harvey, which hit the Gulf Coast region in late August.

“The path of Hurricane Irma could not have been more lethal than what it was,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Wednesday. Groves are still under water in southwest Florida and state lawmakers are calling for immediate federal aid for producers.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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