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Why orange juice prices are rising

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Umatilla, Florida — The price of orange juice is the latest item putting a squeeze on pocketbooks. 

The reason is citrus greening, a disease afflicting Florida orange groves that is spread by an invasive insect. 

“All the roots are going to go first. So when you have no roots, you have no leaves, no fruit,” grove owner Brian Faryna told CBS News. 

There’s no known cure for citrus greening, so in groves that have already been affected it’s safe to assume most trees have it to some degree. The tell-tale sign is the amount of fruit that’s fallen to the ground or fruit that is unusually small. 

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Faryna’s family established a grove near Orlando 70 years ago. It’s hard for him to imagine that Florida is forecast to have its smallest orange crop since before they laid down roots. 

“All of our land is citrus,” he said. “And so we hear numbers like that and it’s devastating.”  

At its peak, Florida produced more than 244 million boxes of oranges a year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s set to produce only 44.5 million this year. But as demand for orange juice grew during the pandemic, prices for orange juice concentrate rose nearly 14% last year. The low crop yield is likely to drive up prices even more in 2022. 

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Faryna is now growing other crops to supplement the family income. But as other farmers seek other work or sell their land to developers, the number of acres harvested for oranges in the state has dropped by more than half over the past 20 years. 

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