South-Central Florida experienced a bout of extremely cold weather during the last few days of January, resulting in frost and icing throughout many Floridian orange groves. In the immediate aftermath of this event, farmers initially reported that the damage to their groves was minimal. However, more recent estimations paint a clearer picture of the frost’s effects, with certain grove locations recording temperatures as low as ~20 degrees Fahrenheit lasting for upwards of two days. Such sustained conditions of frost have not been observed in Florida for over five years. Temperatures below 30 degrees often lead to bloom damage on citrus trees, which can drastically affect the quality of their subsequent harvests.
Fruit droppage rates also appear to be a major issue for many Florida citrus growers post-freeze. As temperatures drop for sustained periods of time, the juices contained within citrus fruits become frozen, resulting in premature fruits dropping from their branches. This can happen in as little as 6 hours after exposure to substantial freezing temperatures; Florida’s freeze lasted for two days. As such, it will be difficult for farmers to fully assess the damage dealt to their groves until temperatures warm up to regularity once again. Other conditions expected to affect citrus trees in the region are wood injury and external fruit damage, both of which will reduce harvest levels.
Florida has already weathered a challenging orange season up to this point, with fruit estimates falling from 47 million boxes to just 44.5 million midway through January. These shifting numbers represented a 13 % reduction in harvest size when compared to Florida’s previous orange season, and it seems as though the difference between the two will only continue to grow from the effects of the freeze.
The global orange market is quite volatile currently, with prices rising on a regular basis due to an ongoing drought in Mexico and a difficult growing season for Brazil (frost has also been an issue there). As such, it seems likely that orange oil and its derivatives will continue to rise in price as availability of new materials reduces.