Inflation hits orange prices, sending Florida state fruit up nearly 9%

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The national inflation rate in the United States hit 7%. Over the past month, the biggest price increases have been concentrated in melons and vegetables. Now the price hikes have hit Florida with oranges closer.

On the shopping list, pork, beef and eggs are finally seeing less inflationary pressure. Pork products like bacon are slightly cheaper and beef is down a solid 2%. Pork chops prices are beginning to fall, while canned ham and lunch meat prices are trending up.

As of December’s inflation measure, fish and chicken are still more expensive. Consumers’ wallets get hurt the most when they buy fresh groceries, especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables.

Fruit is generally 7.9% more expensive compared to last year. Vegetables are less expensive as they are up just 2.4% year-over-year overall. However, when it comes to monthly price increases, citrus is the king of price increases, with collectively 6.5% higher spending at the end of 2021.

While price hikes are still higher at the bottom of the grocery list for fresh fruit and vegetables, citrus fruits, particularly oranges, were the most inflated with a price increase of 8.9% between November and December.

Citrus was a major industry in Florida before it was a part of the United States, according to the Florida Department of State. Citrus plants were first grown commercially in Florida in the 15th century. By the mid-1870s, FDOS said the citrus industry was booming in the state, leading to entrepreneurs “flocking” to Florida to grow citrus. The family grove boom continued through the 1960s, when groves were consolidated and citrus grew from a “family-oriented operation” to a “full-fledged agribusiness”.

In modern times, Florida produces a slim majority of US citrus.

Because of the large role oranges play in the state’s economy, Florida has named oranges the official state fruit, orange juice as the state drink, and even orange blossom as the state flower. Visitors and newcomers to the Sunshine State are offered orange juice at welcome centers and popular products are posted on highways throughout the state.

According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Citrus Forecast, the Sunshine State grew about 51% of its native oranges in the 2020-2021 season. These oranges are used in everything from orange juice to jam or just for snacking. The country’s total orange harvest is 103,950,000. Texas and California produce most of what Florida doesn’t cover.

The USDA reported that total orange production in Florida fell 3% on Jan. 12. The fall in output comes as demand rises, increasing inflationary pressures. That’s driving up orange prices, adding to supply chain and distribution issues common to every industry due to driver shortages and higher fuel costs.

The USDA’s latest citrus forecast predicts an even lower volume of orange crates in January. In December, 46,000,000 cases of oranges were sold in Florida. Only 44,500,000 are expected in January. In the 2020-2021 season, the USDA reported that Florida planted a total of 52,800,000 crates of oranges. The season usually lasts from October to July.

Central Florida, Polk, Highlands and Osceola counties have the second highest volume of orange groves in Florida with 120,763 acres in 2020. West Florida, made up of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Hardee, and DeSoto counties, is the volume region with 123,950 acres in 2020. However, the USDA reported that the number of acres available for growth across the state has shrunk when it comes to the cultivation of oranges and grapefruits, products of which Florida has more than any other state.

The 2021-2022 production season will continue through July, but with a continued downgrade and fewer acres of groves, ongoing inflation is making it unclear what Florida’s growers and consumers should expect.

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