Disease threatens years of orange output in top grower Brazil

sliced oranges
Reading Time: 2 minutes

By Roberto Samora

SAO PAULO, (Reuters) – The rapid spread of a citrus disease in Brazil has pushed orange juice prices to near record highs as it threatens years of output from orchards in the world’s largest producer.

With no proven cure on the market, entire orchards have been lost to what’s known as citrus greening disease which results in stunted fruit. It’s caused by bacteria carried in psyllids, or jumping plant lice.

Some 38% of Brazil’s citrus-producing area has been infected, according to research group Fundecitrus, and affected orchards can see yields plunge by 60%.

Brazil’s citrus belt, which accounts for three-fifths of global supply, could lose some 25% of its output by the end of a decade, when production could fall to around 235 million boxes (9.59 bln kg), according to estimates from the Citrus Consultants Group (Gconci) and consultancy Agriplanning.

Their model projects a 12% output drop over five years, based on estimated production in the 2023/24 season of 309 million boxes in São Paulo and Minas Gerais states, the heart of Brazil’s orange belt. Bad weather could lead to an even bigger drop.

The disease in Brazil and a smaller U.S. harvest have pushed up prices for frozen and concentrated orange juice by around 60% this year, approaching a record high over 3.30 dollars per pound.

Efforts to combat the bacteria-carrying psyllid have also become harder as they have become resistant to insecticides.

In the last harvest alone, premature fruit drops due to greening resulted in lost production of some 21.9 million boxes, said Fundecitrus researcher Renato Bassanezi.

CitrusBR, a group representing major producers such as Citrosuco, Cutrale and Louis Dreyfus Company, said last week that Brazilian orange juice stocks hit a historic low of 84,740 metric tons at the end of June, due to weather and greening impacts.

Once you're here...

%d bloggers like this: