Florida Orange Crop Crushed With Output Estimated at 52-Year Low

  • U.S. government forecast trails estimates by analysts
  • Orange-juice futures post their biggest gain since June

Florida’s orange crop will shrink to the lowest in 52 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has forecast, as damage from citrus-greening disease persists.

The outlook sent orange-juice futures up the most in four months. In the season ending Sept. 30, Florida will collect 80 million boxes, the lowest since 1964, the USDA said Friday in a report. The projection trailed the estimate of 93.46 million, the average of eight analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Last season, output was 96.8 million boxes.

“It’s a bullish number,” Fain Shaffer, the president of Infinity Trading Corp. in Indianapolis, said in an e-mail. He predicted 88 million boxes, the closest to the USDA estimate in the Bloomberg survey.

Planted acreage in Florida, the top U.S. grower, has dropped to the lowest since at least 1966 as greening raises costs for farmers and discourages expansion. Urban sprawl and hurricane damage also reduced groves, according to the Florida Department of Citrus.

Orange juice for November delivery jumped 4.8 percent to settle at $1.159 a pound on ICE Futures U.S. in New York, the biggest increase for a most-active contract since June 8. The commodity capped five straight gains, the longest rally since June 11.

Citrus Greening

Through Thursday, futures tumbled 21 percent this year because of sluggish beverage demand. A box weighs 90 pounds or 41 kilograms.

Citrus greening, spread by the Asian citrus psyllids bug and first discovered in Florida in 2005, has triggered the loss of an estimated 100,000 acres and $3.6 billion in state revenues since 2007, the University of Florida has said. The disease causes fruit to shrivel and drop from trees.

“We are in a challenging time with severe disease pressure, but Florida growers continue to be the best producers in the world,” Michael W. Sparks, the executive vice president and chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual, the state’s largest grower organization, said in an e-mail.

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