Decline in OJ Imports Not Necessarily Good News
Lakeland Ledger – May 18, 2012
HAINES CITY | Florida citrus growers usually would embrace a decline in U.S. orange juice imports because it gives them a larger market share.
But when the reasons behind falling imports include plummeting domestic OJ sales and a collapsing futures market, there’s no good news in it.
OJ imports in March plunged 42 percent following a 37 percent dive in February compared to the same months in 2011, according to Florida Department of Citrus reports. Imports declined 28 percent for the first quarter this year.
“This is a time when imports going down is not necessarily a good thing,” said University of Florida economist Tom Spreen, an authority on Florida citrus. “Consumption has dropped, so there’s not much need for imports.”
The U.S. normally gets half its orange juice imports from Brazil, the world’s largest orange grower and OJ producer, but Brazilian imports fell to 911,544 gallons in March, down 82 percent from more than 5 million gallons in March 2011. Brazilian OJ imports fell to zero in February compared to 7.5 million gallons a year earlier.
The reason for the drop in Brazilian imports is clear, Spreen said. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in January began testing OJ imports for carbendazim, a fungicide illegal in the U.S. but used widely in Brazil. Testing came after the two largest U.S. orange juice brands, Tropicana and Minute Maid, reported some of their products containing Brazilian juice had traces of carbendazim.