The reduced availability of orange juices this year is set to boost retail prices, according to a US economist.

In a report from the Associated Press earlier this week, Mark G. Brown told the Florida Citrus Commission that worldwide orange juice availability this year is expected to slide by 7% on 2005.

The fall is in part due to the reduced orange crop in Florida as the effect of hurricanes in the state makes itself felt. The total availability of orange juice from Florida and Brazil is down by 20% on the 2003-2004 season, the most recent year that Florida had a storm-free harvest, the news service said.

Brown warned that the scarcity will drive prices even higher. Frozen concentrate juice will rise from US$3.46 a gallon last year to $4.10, while not-from-concentrate juice will climb by 11% to $6.05, Brown added.

Farmers are set to benefit from the price rises, however, with returns outpacing higher processing costs, Brown noted. Preliminary numbers put revenue at more than $1bn for processed oranges, bettering last year's estimate of $765m.