What Happens to Juice When Natural Disasters Strike?

Photo from Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News

As storm severity increases worldwide, tropical storms threaten some of the globe’s most fruitful citrus and vegetable producers – no pun intended.  

We know what happens to homes and communities when hurricanes blow through towns, but when disaster strikes, what happens to the fruit and vegetable supply chains? We’re not worried about the juice here. What we’re interested in are the ingredients themselves. 

In late August, the Wall Street Journal reported orange juice futures spiraled as Hurricane Dorian headed toward Florida, which is a major provider of the citrus fruit. Frozen concentrated orange juice, often manufactured in the state, ended down 3.9% at $1.0375 per pound. 

Hurricane Dorian poses a significant threat to the orange crop yield. Oranges, which are often harvested in October, are currently in a vulnerable stage of development. While farmers are doing what they can to protect their homes and production, little can be done to protect the groves themselves.  

So, why is this important? About half of the orange juice sold in the United States comes from oranges grown in Florida. If you’ve made orange juice in your home juicing machine, the fruit has most likely come from Florida.  

This got us thinking: as intense tropical storms become more common (as they already have), what will happen to the fresh fruits and vegetables we need for the juice we love so much?  

We have to look to the past to figure that out. Let’s stick with oranges as the example. The last major storm to hit Florida’s orange groves was Hurricane Irma, which hit land in 2017. Irma was a Category 4 storm, and it ended up reducing orange production by nearly 40 percent that year. Fruit and juice prices skyrocketed to account for scarcity and make up some cost of labor.  

Hurricane season also collides infelicitously with the orange harvest, adding further damage to production yield. This means autumn-harvested fruits and vegetables will continue to suffer from the storms.  

Ultimately, tropical storms will continue to wreak havoc on citrus production in the lower United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean, driving production into the ground while prices see a precipitous rise. For all who love juice – whether you make it at home or prefer the ease of store-bought – this will put added pressure on your wallet.  

If you’re looking for a way to beat these inevitable price hikes, consider freezing the fruit in advance. Oranges will last in your freezer for around a year, meaning you can buy when the prices are lowest and enjoy fresh juice year-round.  

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