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US orange production hit by disease, juice prices soar

Published on Apr 18, 2014 12:09 PM
 
Oranges for sale at the Eastern Market in Washington, DC. 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. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

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 Mr 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.

 
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