×

Irma could be 'the last straw' for the Florida orange industry, commodities expert says

  • The hurricane force winds from Irma could devastate an already struggling Florida orange industry, commodities specialist James Cordier says.
  • "Generally speaking, an orange tree can withstand 50 mph winds. It's thought once it reaches 50 to 75, we could lose as much as 33 to 40 percent of orange production," he says.

Hurricane force winds from Irma could devastate an already struggling Florida orange industry, commodities specialist James Cordier told CNBC on Friday.

Cordier, founder and president of OptionSellers.com, explained that at the beginning of the century Florida was producing more than 200 million boxes of oranges. Last year, the state produced only 65 million boxes, which was the smallest crop in more than 50 years, he said

"Generally speaking, an orange tree can withstand 50 mph winds. It's thought once it reaches 50 to 75, we could lose as much as 33 to 40 percent of orange production," Cordier said in an interview on "Squawk Box."

"This could really be the last straw for the Florida orange industry," he added.

Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century, on Friday drove toward Florida, the world's second-largest orange juice producer. The hurricane could pack winds as strong as 155 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.

On Friday, orange juice futures were on pace for their best week since Oct. 16, 2015 — when they posted a gain of nearly 17 percent — as investors anticipated the arrival of Hurricane Irma in The Sunshine State. Futures are up 12 percent week to date.

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

Cordier said the last time Florida faced a potential production shortage like this was when the state was hit by hurricanes in 2005. He also anticipates many Florida orange producers will retire.

Morning Squawk: CNBC's before the bell news roundup

Sign up to get Morning Squawk each weekday

Get this delivered to your inbox, and more info about about our products and service. Privacy Policy.
Please enter a valid email address