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Orange juice prices soar as US harvests anything but sweet

NEW YORK (AFP) – Wholesale orange juice prices soared to a record high on Tuesday, propelled by low inventories and a calamitous recent United States (US) harvest.

Chicago-listed futures contracts for frozen orange juice concentrate (FOJC) climbed to USD4.3195 per approximately 450 grammes.

A key factor behind the surging price is a cratering inventory, which has almost halved since the same time last year, and is barely a quarter of 2019 levels.

It follows a calamitous 2022-23 harvest, the lowest in 56 years according to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, primarily due to the spread of citrus greening.

Also known as Huanglongbing (HLB) or yellow dragon disease, the incurable infection causes citrus to become green and bitter, with most impacted trees dying off in a few years, the USDA said.

It is transmitted by the psyllid, a tiny insect that carries a bacterium that feeds on the sap.

Another major blow to inventory were back-to-back hurricanes in late 2022 which hit Florida, the biggest orange juice producing US state.

However, Tuesday’s high could mark the beginning of a market turnaround, according to Shawn Hackett of Hackett Financial Advisors.

He pointed out that, after setting a new record high since the launch of orange juice futures in 1966, prices dropped by almost five per cent in the second half of the session (-4.63 per cent).

“I believe over the next 12 months, prices are likely to fall back, probably 50 per cent from where they currently are, if not more,” Hackett predicted.

The first factor is that production of Valencia oranges, the variety most commonly used for juice, is forecast to rise by 23 per cent for the 2023-24 season, according to the USDA.

PHOTO: ENVATO
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