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Major Brazilian industry players aim to improve citrus forecasts

Foodnews - 02/18/2011

BY VLADIMIR PEKIC

A NEW multi-party effort to improve forecasting of national orange crop production is under way in Brazil, after talks were launched on the possible convergence of different existing methodologies and diverse sources of information on orange production.

The basis for this breakthrough agreement was discussed during a meeting organised by Brazil's National Supply Company (CONAB) with the Brazilian Association of Citrus Exporters (CitrusBR), the Agronomical Studies Institute (IEA) of the São Paulo State Secretariat of Agriculture, São Paulo Agriculture Federation (FAESP), Citrus Producers Association (Associtrus), Brazilian Rural Association (SRB) and the Ministry of Agriculture, on 8 February.

"We informed the group that, after many years, the orange juice companies decided to announce a common forecast of the crop production. Also, we agreed on the necessity to join the industry technical staff and the CONAB/IEA-SP staff," said CitrusBR'S president, Christian Lohbauer.

One of the principal points of discussion was how to improve the CONAB orange crop forecasts by providing input from the industry-owned farms. "We will find a common solution to give the information. It is still sensitive to determine how the technical staff will visit the farms. [What is] important is that the information will be accurate and precise and that is the most important thing for our market and the international market," Lohbauer disclosed.

Although the talks have clearly started positively, no formal agreement has been signed yet. The next step in the process will see CitrusBR, which represents its associates Citrosuco, Citrovita, Cutrale and LouisDreyfus Commodities, meeting with the technical staff of the CONAB and IEA-SP to exchange information and methodologies.

"Then we (CitrusBR) intend to communicate the Citrus Belt forecast in mid-April at the same time that the IEA/CONAB will communicate their forecast for São Paulo state. And we are sure that the forecasts will be very close, given the convergence of methodologies and the clarification of what exactly has been informed. The idea is to do the same in August and November. Every year three times a year from now on . we will define the dates in the next meetings," Lohbauer disclosed.

Prompted on CitrusBR's position regarding an end-of-January CONAB forecast that predicted a 9.56% rise in orange production in São Paulo state to approximately 353 million boxes, Lohbauer explained that the recent meeting held at CONAB headquarters in Brasilia touched upon this very issue. "That was exactly the discussion in Brasilia," he said. "There are some differences around the methodologies and the results presented. But they are not very significant. It is just a matter of adjusting the information, clarifying what exactly is being communicated and there will not be differences among the forecasts anymore," Lohbauer explained.

This latest initiative to improve quality of forecasts is also expected to benefit the process of establishing the new Consecitrus council, seen as a crucial component of the efforts to reorganise the citrus production sector in Brazil.