Why Oranges May Be The Next Food To See A Spike In Price

We're sorry, orange lovers, but the latest story about price increases is going to affect you. After a tough year of endless food inflation, we could all use a little relief from news about how flour or meat costs are going through the roof, but nature just keeps on taking its toll. Some of the most important and productive agricultural regions in the world are beset by drought, and whole industries are being threatened by climate change, driving up the cost of wine, rice, butter, and other products. Even less obvious disasters, such as last year's record-breaking heat wave, can have long-lasting effects on the price of food. At least there has finally been some good news on the egg front in recent weeks.

If you have this unshakable feeling that we are experiencing a lot of problems all at once, you wouldn't be wrong. The National Centers for Environmental Information tracking of natural disasters has shown a consistent increase in the intensity and frequency of disasters over the past 40 years (via USA Facts). That has all been piled on top of the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns — whether they be in the form of supply chain issues or labor shortages. And now a few new overlapping disasters are behind the recent rise in the price of oranges and orange juice.

The devastation of America's orange crop

Last year, Florida had its worst orange crop in over seven decades, and the culprit — a disease called citrus greening — is spreading. Citrus greening has been present in Florida since 2005 and has slowly grown to infect almost every grove in the state while also spreading to Georgia, Texas, California, and other citrus-growing states (via USDA APHIS). The bacterial disease causes orange trees to produce fewer, smaller fruits that are malformed and taste bitter, before eventually killing the trees entirely. Even before last year's nadir, it had been responsible for declining orange harvests in the Sunshine State during the past few decades.

The kicker at the end of an already bad year was Hurricane Ian. The hurricane was one of the worst disasters of the past year. While the agricultural impact rightfully came second to the human impact, the natural disaster took a real toll on Florida's orange production, with this year's crop looking to be just as bad as last year's. That all might be mitigated by orange production in other states, but as Food & Wine reports, citrus greening is now spreading in California, which has just overtaken Florida as the nation's top orange producer. It all adds up to orange prices that are already skyrocketing, with the cost of orange juice rising 30% year to date, per Markets Insider. So if you love your orange juice, stock up now — things are about to get a lot pricier.