Florida: Orange crops bouncing back from bugs and a hurricane

After enduring pestilence and a deadly hurricane, Florida’s orange growers are finally catching a break. In the season that starts October 1, the state will perhaps reap 70 million boxes of the fruit, according to the estimate of four traders and analysts in a Bloomberg survey. That compares with 44.95 million the prior year, the smallest crop since 1945, government data show. The survey response range was 65 to 80 million.

Orange production in Florida, the No. 1 US grower, has been dwindling for years thanks to the scourge of the Asian citrus psyllid, a tiny winged insect that spreads the bacterial disease known as citrus greening. Greening has decimated groves and increased costs for crop maintenance. Last year, the industry also suffered a blow from Hurricane Irma, after the storm smashed into trees in September.

Bloomberg.com reports that orange juice futures have jumped 17 percent over the past 12 months to about $1.59 a pound in New York trading.

The crop is finally getting a bit of a lift after better weather and as more growers develop methods to fight the greening disease. Output of 70 million boxes would be the biggest in three years, data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show. The agency will issue its first estimate for the upcoming season on October 11. A box weighs 90 pounds/41 kilograms.

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