Weather & Natural Disasters

The orange juice market is going crazy ahead of Hurricane Irma

Key Points
  • Frozen concentrated orange juice futures spiked as Hurricane Irma bore down on Florida
  • Irma's course remained uncertain, but many of its potential paths would take it right over Florida
Minute Maid frozen orange juice is displayed in a freezer at a grocery store in San Rafael, California.
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Frozen concentrated orange juice futures, the contract made famous in the 1983 Eddie Murphy movie "Trading Places," spiked higher on Tuesday as Hurricane Irma bore down on Florida.

The Category 5 storm has already set records, with the National Hurricane Center on Tuesday setting its initial intensity at 155 knots, making Irma "the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic basin outside of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico in the NHC records."

Irma's course remained uncertain, but many of its potential paths would take it right over Florida.

That sent the ICE frozen concentrated orange juice futures continuous contract spiking up as high as $146.60, from the previous close of $138.60. The contract represents around 15,000 pounds of orange juice solids.

Before the storm formed, Florida was expected to produce more than half of the U.S. oranges and nearly half of the country's grapefruit, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's forecasts in July.

Florida is the world's second-largest orange juice producer, after Brazil, the USDA said.

The U.S. was forecast to produce around 9 percent of the world's oranges and 16 percent of its orange juice this season, the USDA data showed.

While the "potentially catastrophic" storm could seriously hurt Florida and many parts of its economy, the impact of a damaged orange sector would be significant: The industry employs more than 45,000 people and provides an annual economic impact of $8.6 billion to the state, according to the Florida Department of Citrus.

That comes as the state's citrus industry was already struggling with declining production due to citrus greening, an uncurable disease spread by an insect that impairs trees' circulation and nutrition.

—CNBC's Robert Ferris contributed to this article.