Orange juice makers consider using other fruits after prices go ‘bananas’

Last Updated: June 16, 2024By
The Orange Juice Crisis: What’s Next for Our Favorite Breakfast Drink?

Orange juice producers are facing a tough decision: switch to other fruits like mandarins or deal with skyrocketing prices. Right now, orange juice prices are through the roof because of fears about bad harvests in Brazil.

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Prices Through the Roof

This week, the cost of orange juice concentrate hit a record $4.95 per pound. Growers in Brazil, the world’s main orange supplier, expect their harvest to drop by 24% from last year. That’s worse than the 15% drop they had predicted earlier.

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The Struggle in Brazil

Brazil’s orange trees are in trouble. They’ve been hit hard by citrus greening, a disease that can’t be cured. Last year’s extreme heat and drought during the flowering season, made worse by climate change, didn’t help either.

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Not Just Brazil

This poor harvest in Brazil is the third bad one in a row worldwide. Florida, another big orange-growing area, has also been struggling. Hurricanes and the same citrus greening disease have hurt their crops. The disease is spread by tiny insects and makes the fruit bitter before killing the tree.

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Running Out of Options

Usually, manufacturers mix fresh juice with frozen juice to get through tough times, but this year’s problems are making that harder. Frozen juice only lasts about two years, so they can’t rely on old reserves forever.

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A Real Crisis

“This is a crisis,” said Kees Cools, president of the International Fruit and Vegetable Juice Association (IFU). “We’ve never seen anything like it, even with the big freezes and hurricanes in the past.”

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Considering Alternatives

The IFU is thinking about asking for changes in UN food regulations to let orange juice include other citrus fruits. They’re also looking into changing rules at the national level.

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Changing Consumer Habits

Francois Sonneville, a senior beverages analyst at Rabobank, pointed out that people are drinking less orange juice—about 20% less than last year. The high prices and changing habits are to blame.

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What’s Next for Orange Juice?

“The global orange juice industry is in crisis,” Sonneville said. “Florida’s industry is almost gone, and Brazil’s groves are struggling with disease, high costs, and bad growing conditions. This means we have the lowest global orange juice supplies in decades.”

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Possible Solutions

Sonneville suggested a few options: use lower quality juice, mix orange juice with other fruits like apple, mango, or grape, or charge more money. But he’s not sure mandarins are the answer because getting them to processors would be expensive.

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Looking to the Future

The problems won’t go away soon. It takes a long time to plant new orange trees, and farmers are thinking about other crops because of the ongoing issues with disease and high labor costs in Florida.

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“You’d have to think hard about planting a tree that will last for the next 25 years since prices could drop again next year,” Sonneville said.

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Wrapping Up

With orange juice prices soaring and harvests declining, producers are in a tough spot. They might have to change their recipes or raise prices to keep up. What does the future hold for our beloved breakfast drink? Only time will tell.

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