Huanglongbing, Asian citrus psyllid, yellow dragon disease and citrus greening are some of the names for the deadly citrus bacteria spread by a tiny, invasive bug from China.
This tiny bug is now responsible for threatening the world’s citrus production from the United States to Mexico, India, Brazil and Africa.
The bacteria were first detected in Broward County, Florida in 1998. Within two years it had spread to 31 counties in Florida. Although the bacteria don’t seem to be harmful to humans, it ruins the look and taste of the orange. In many cases full size oranges stay green and other mature oranges are no bigger than ping-pong balls. Those in the industry consider these bacteria to be a cancer; causing deformities in the tree roots. The fruit does not mature properly and eventually the trees die.
Last year a group of 500 scientists from more than 20 nations gathered in Florida to discuss possible solutions. To date almost $80 million dollars has been spent on research – with no cure in sight to eradicate the deadly bacteria.
One option would be to engineer and plant genetically modified trees resistant to the bacteria. Of course for many consumers, GMOs are a negative!
To stem the problem, many farmers spray the trees. But this comes with a high cost, forcing many farmers out of business. As one farmer said, spraying keeps the bacteria at bay for 30 days, maybe 45 days.In 1995 the average cost to produce an acre of oranges was about $900; today it costs $1800 to produce the same acre of oranges.
At the moment the consumer has yet to feel the full ramifications of this deadly bug in their pocketbook. As with many other consumer products, the supplier hasn’t actually raised the price; they have cut back on the size and amount of juice in the container. Instead of giving you 64 ounces of orange juice, your container now has only 59 ounces of OJ.
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