By Sandy Sachs. August 23, 2010.
The orange is the second most profitable fruit crop in America after the grape. Valued at 1.5 billion in 2009, it accounts for 1/6 of all fruit and nut cash receipts. Because it requires a tropical or subtropical climate to flourish, commercial orange production is limited to just four states: Florida, California, Texas and Arizona.
While California does produce the majority of the fresh fruit, Florida dominates the orange juice market. And since orange juice is far more popular than fresh oranges, the Sunshine State rules the orange industry. At last count, more than seventy percent of the oranges grown in America are Florida oranges.
The orange sits atop an enormous American citrus industry that includes the grapefruit, the lemon, the lime, as well as a few specialty fruits like tangerines and tangelos. Once again, Florida reigns supreme as the top producer of each of the aforementioned.
Altogether, the Florida citrus industry accounts for nearly seventy percent of US citrus fruit production. The industry generates annual revenues in excess of 9 billion dollars and is one of the state’s largest employers with nearly eighty thousand workers.
The Florida Department of Agriculture, the Florida Citrus Commission, and the US Department of Agriculture are the three agencies responsible for maintaining the high standards of quality and efficiency Florida citrus is famous for. All juices and fresh fruits are processed under the watchful eye of these agencies, making Florida oranges one of the best regulated commodities produced in the United States.
Why are Florida oranges so popular? The reason is simple: the juice. Though the orange has always been a popular fresh fruit, it currently ranks third behind the banana and the apple, fresh fruit production is more expensive and less profitable than juicing. But because fruit juice requires refrigeration, Florida oranges were not processed in great number until the technology became available in the home in 1911.
Since that time the number of processing plants in Florida has grown along with the proportion of oranges that are used for juicing. Today, about ninety-five percent of Florida oranges are turned into juice. The remainder are packed in 90-pound crates and sold to supermarkets and fruit stands, mostly on the east coast.
Florida orange juice is the single most profitable and distinctive fruit product in the state. The industry is responsible for over eighty percent of the US supply. As a result, America rarely imports orange juice. And who would want to?
Florida oranges are famous for their sweetness and taste. They are also widely considered to be the world’s best juicing orange. Due mostly to the states wetter climate, Florida oranges are typically 25 percent heavier (juicier) than oranges grown in other countries or states.