OJ Imports to U.S. Fall 37% in February
Lakeland Ledger – April 25, 2012
LAKELAND | Orange juice imports to the United States fell 37 percent in February, the first sign a federal testing program barring OJ shipments tainted with an illegal fungicide, carbendazim, is having an impact on domestic supplies.
But the short-term impact of lower OJ supplies on farm and retail prices is probably offset by diminished OJ sales, also stemming from the bad news about carbendazim, said Tom Spreen, a citrus industry economist at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
“That’s not a particularly good outcome if it means diminished (OJ) demand,” he said.
If the Florida citrus industry can’t revive consumer demand, the OJ sales slump will continue over the long term, depressing farm prices, Spreen added.
The Florida Department of Citrus last week reported OJ imports in February had fallen to 15.9 million gallons, down from 25.3 million gallons a year earlier. Imports from Brazil, which normally accounts for about half the annual total, fell to zero from 7.5 million gallons in February 2011.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration began testing OJ imports for carbendazim in January after the two largest OJ brands, Tropicana and Minute Maid, reported some of their products contained traces of the fungicide. The products were blended with imported OJ, primarily from Brazil, which appears to be the source of the contamination.
Brazilian officials announced their growers have stopped using carbendazim but that it could take up to 18 months for any trace of the chemical to disappear from it OJ shipments.
Through March, the FDA has barred 27 imported OJ shipments that tested positive for carbendazim. That included 14 shipments from Brazil and 12 from Canada, which uses Brazilian OJ in its products.