New York (AFP) – A citrus disease spread by a tiny insect has devastated Florida’s orange crop, which is expected to be the worst in nearly 30 years, and sent juice prices soaring on New York markets.
The culprit? The gnat-sized Asian citrus psyllid, which is infecting citrus trees across the Sunshine State with huanglongbing, or citrus greening disease, which causes fruit to taste bitter and fall from trees too soon.
“It feels we are losing the fight,” said Ellis Hunt, the head of a family-run citrus farm spread over about 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares) in the central Florida town of Lake Wales.
The deadly bacteria has slashed his annual production over the past few years from one million boxes of fruit to 750,000.
Citrus greening disease has become such a problem this year that the US government has lowered its forecast for the upcoming harvest four times.