Food & Drink

Hang on to Your Tropicana, an OJ Shortage Is Coming

Published On 10/18/2016 Published On 10/18/2016

You might want to stock up on mimosa supplies, like, now. Reports out of the Sunshine State suggests the US will soon face a serious orange shortage, and the top-selling juice sector is primed to take a pretty hard hit.

Over the past few years, Florida’s orange-growing region has fallen prey to a Molotov cocktail of massively destructive hurricanes and agricultural diseases, and this year’s crop represents the worst harvest ever recorded. The US Department of Agriculture is predicting 2016’s fruit yield will be a full 14% less than 2015’s -- just 70 million boxes total -- and this comes after five years of continuously declining numbers. It’s bummer times at the orange grove.

For the rest of the country, less produce translates to pricier OJ, and the average price for a carton of the good stuff has almost doubled since last summer. To help keep their business alive and combat grocery aisle sticker shock, juice companies have begun making the move to smaller, less expensive cartons, which, in reality, means less bang for your buck. They’ve also started cranking out more juice blends (i.e. orange-pineapple, orange-banana, orange-whatever) instead of straight-up OJ.  

Farmers started to notice a serious drop in production back in 2005, when a bacteria-borne disease called Huanglongbing, or HLB, swept through southern Florida and fatally infected tons of citrus trees in its wake. And, to add insult to injury, a tiny, HLB-spreading bug called the Asian citrus psyllid has been blowing into town on the back of hurricanes for the past 10 years, furthering the mayhem.

Even though Big Juice has spent upwards of $100 million dollars on trying to figure out how to beat HLB, nobody seems to have the answer. Couple that with an increase in wacky, unpredictable, and wholly devastating weather patterns, and you’ve got a recipe for a fresh-squeezed-juiceless future. So sip that screwdriver while you can, buddy; things are about to get a lot less juicy.

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Meredith Heil is a staff writer for Thrillist. Give her five mo' minutes and a cold orange juice, cause she's really really trippin'. Follow @mereditto and she'll send you a box of Florida's finest.

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