Two natural disasters during 2017 caused a downturn for two niche agribusinesses in the United States. Both lemon growers and avocado growers reported significantly reduced harvests. Some producers suffered tree losses, a situation which may hamper crop production next year also. Although the weather damaged domestic orchards, consumers may not notice significant price fluctuations due to increases in imports from overseas.
A Poor U. S. Citrus Harvest
For decades during the 1900s, Florida and California supplied rich harvests of grapefruit, lemons and oranges. In recent years, the citrus industry in Florida has faced significant challenges due to the spread of plant diseases. Production during 2017 suffered an additional setback: Hurricane Irma.
Tallying up the damage from the severe storm system at the end of the year, some orange growers report losing up to 90% of their crop as a result of the harsh weather. The storm destroyed large quantities of fruit on trees, and also produced coastal flooding which damaged orange tree root systems. The United States Department of Agriculture reportedly encountered challenges estimating the scope of the loss accurately in the wake of the hurricane, with some initial estimates of damage much lower than analysts had anticipated.
In California, the Thomas Fire now ranks as the second largest in the state’s recorded history. The blaze wreaked havoc on the citrus industry. On the outskirts of Los Angeles, both avocado and citrus growers sustained losses.
The fire destroyed some mature lemon and avocado groves. The losses pose a hardship for growers. Many depend upon these slow-growing trees to generate annual crops for market during decades of production.
The Brazilian Citrus Industry Flourishes
Although the losses from the natural disasters have damaged the domestic citrus and avocado industries, consumers may not notice the impacts of the reduced harvests in the short term. If imported avocados meet consumption demand, avocado growers unaffected by the fire won’t necessarily notice a steep increase in prices for their crops. The Vice President of the California Avocado Commission noted recently that increased imports may influence prices at grocery stores.
Additionally, consumers in the United States may benefit from the recent increase in orange exports from Brazil. At the present time, the bulk of Florida’s orange harvest supports juice production. Brazilian exports currently contribute significantly to the global orange juice market and may replace poor U.S. harvests.