business news in context, analysis with attitude

Two stories over the weekend about how environmental conditions are creating problems for farmers in Florida and Kansas:

•  The Washington Post reports that "orange juice may become pricier and less sweet over the next several months as Florida’s famous groves yield the smallest crop of citruses in nearly a century.

"The state’s orange trees have suffered from hurricane winds and a mounting epidemic of disease this year, accelerating a 20-year decline in citrus production. Florida has long produced the majority of domestic juice oranges, meaning a smaller crop squeezes the available quality and supply.

"This year’s dismal harvest probably will make already expensive orange juice even more so. A gallon has climbed above $10, per data collected by the Nielsen analytics company, rising 17.5 percent since the beginning of 2022.

"It may also make fresh juice taste less sweet. Greening disease, which causes trees to produce green and bitter fruits, has infected nearly all of Florida’s groves. Even ripe oranges from infected trees have become smaller and less succulent."

In addition, the story says, while "US manufacturers typically source extra oranges from Brazil," that country "also experiencing a shortage after heavy rains rotted some citrus trees."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that "around a third of the winter wheat grown nationwide is expected to be abandoned because it is uneconomical to harvest it this year. It is the highest rate of abandonment since 1917, exceeding the rate of wheat abandoned during the 1930s Dust Bowl … There is enough winter wheat for domestic consumption but volatile world market conditions have motivated U.S. mills to import wheat for flour, and the hit to U.S. farmers is acute.

"Abandoned fields will be left out for cattle to graze on, slashed and used as hay or killed with chemicals so farmers can collect on crop insurance and get new seeds into the ground."

The story notes that "after two years of dry conditions in Kansas, farmers are experiencing their worst wheat crop in more than 60 years … More than half of hard-red winter wheat in Kansas is in poor or very poor condition, according to the Agriculture Department. It is estimated that the state will produce an average of 29 bushels of wheat per harvested acre, down significantly from the 52 bushels an acre it yielded in 2021."  (Kansas produces more winter wheat than any other state in the union.)

The Journal writes that "recent downpours have helped revive some wilting wheat fields, particularly in the northwest part of the state, and offered hope that milo, corn and other crops being planted now will flourish.  But for many places, the May and June rain is too late."

KC's View:

Sounds like the kind of thing that we're all going to have to get used to - product shortages and alternations influenced by climate change.  It will be best for retailers to stay up to date on these shifts, and be up front with shoppers about why they're happening.  Don't assume that they read the news - advocate for them and to them through constant communications.