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Fruit Juice Matters

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Valor Econômico - 08/26/2010

The international market for orange juice has changed, and the reflexes of a long period with retracted demand have boosted productive chain in Sao Paulo (the most important in Brazil and the world) in a different direction than accentuated the differences between citrus growers and industry in recent decades. In a year or so prices have risen due to serious problems in the provision, but the adjustment process to a scenario of lower and more demanding consumption endures.

Amid the turmoil caused by disputes over raw material prices - amplified by investigations into an alleged cartel among the major exporting companies of the commodity - and high juice inventories in major consumers like the United States and Europe - the 90 pounds boxes of oranges destined for industries fell to one of its lowest levels in the middle of last year.

In the spot market of Sao Paulo, the box fell to almost R$ 3, compared to a cost of production and transport, for most citrus growers, above R$ 10. Industries resisted in closing contracts for one or two years of fruit supply, hundreds of growers left the business and Citrosuco and Citrovita, second and third largest companies in the segment, began talks to combine operations, gain scale and leadership in overcoming Cutrale in world exports of orange juice.

Today the box is worth nearly R$ 15 in the spot market, according to a survey of the Centre for Advanced Studies in Applied Economics from the College of Agriculture Luiz de Queiroz (Cepea / Esalq), but problems remain. Especially because the majority of these problems - mainly plant diseases, which increase cost of production - that prices have risen so much.

With frost and spread of the disease known as greening, Florida, US state that has the second largest citrus park on the planet, has just harvested in 2009/10 season, 134 million boxes of oranges, 25% less than the average of ten previous cycles. Greening also affects production in Sao Paulo, the world's largest producer, harvesting a crop (2010/11) of 185 million boxes, 11% lower than in 2009/10 and well below the nearly 350 million of the mid-decade.