Florida is known for a lot of things, and most of them involve either baby alligators, bath salts, or news stories with glassy-eyed mugshots printed under some combination of the words "Fistfight" and "Cracker Barrel."
America's dangling land appendage is also responsible for the majority of the country's citrus fruits; in 2014, Florida accounted for 58 percent of our total citrus production, including 58 percent of our grapefruits and 60 percent of our oranges. But, going forward, that might not be the case.
According to Bloomberg, Florida's orange production has fallen for the fifth straight year, making this the state's worst citrus-related slump since 1913, when the US Department of Agriculture began keeping statistics on orange harvests. The most recent harvest began on October 1 and, over the course of the next 12 months, the state will collect an estimated 63.18 million boxes of oranges from farmers. (Each box of oranges weighs 90 pounds). That is a 22.5 percent decrease from the previous 12 months, in which 81.5 million boxes were harvested.
Hurricane Matthew, which tore its way through parts of Florida last weekend, didn't do the orange industry any favors. Florida's oranges are already being threatened—and destroyed—by the Asian citrus psyllid, a nasty-looking little insect that spreads Citrus greening disease (also known as Huanglongbing) from tree to tree. The disease results in lopsided, bitter-tasting fruit and eventually kills the entire tree.
There's not exactly good news on the already harvested side of the orange industry either. According to a recent Nielsen study, sales of refrigerated orange juice fell 4.1 percent and sales of frozen orange juice dropped 9.7 percent in the 12 months between July 2015 and July 2016. Since 2001, sales of this particular part of a balanced breakfast have plummeted 45 percent.
Why? It could be a combination of factors, ranging from the increased number of juice and smoothie options on grocery store shelves, the rising popularity of DIY juicing, the appeal of other beverages that are perceived as being healthier (oh hey, coconut water) or consumers simply being turned off by OJ's sugar content. An eight-ounce glass of Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice has 110 calories, 26 grams of carbohydrates, and 22 grams of sugar, which, from a sugar standpoint, makes it slightly worse than just chugging a serving of Cocoa Pebbles (120 calories, 25 grams of carbohydrates, and just 10 grams of sugar).
Despite the ongoing slump for orange-related items (and we're not even mentioning the Trump campaign), this might not be the end of it. There is currently no cure for Citrus greening disease and, based on the number of hardships facing them, a number of growers are giving up on the fruit entirely.
Sorry, Florida. There's always alligator farming.