May 27, 2020 - Economy & Business

Orange juice is the world's top performing commodity so far this year

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Orange juice prices have surged by more than 30% so far this year making it the world's top performing commodity.

Why it matters: Demand for the beverage continues to rise and supply has faced constraints, in part because of the exponential increase of coronavirus cases in Brazil, a top global center of OJ production.

On one side: U.S. retail sales of orange juice rose 46% from a year earlier in the four-week period ending April 11, the most since January 2015, according to Bloomberg, citing the Florida Department of Citrus and data from Nielsen.

  • After two decades of declining sales when Americans moved away from juice and opted for lower sugar beverages, orange juice consumption is reversing the trend as part of the quarantine diet.
  • It also has been sought because it is rich in vitamin C, which bolsters immune systems, in the face of the pandemic.

“The taboos of the past two decades are now erased, and with people trying to shop less frequently, drinking OJ can replace fresh fruit,” Judy Ganes, the president of J. Ganes Consulting, told Bloomberg.

  • “This was the long-awaited break the industry needed to shake off prior negative posturing and give OJ a fresh start.”

On the other side: Production had been expected to decline for the 2020–2021 orange crop and the latest estimate from Brazil's Fundecitrus showed it would be 25.6% smaller than the previous crop and 12.5% below the average crop size for the last 10 years.

  • That was largely because of poor weather conditions, and the coronavirus pandemic will likely further dent production as pickers get sick or are unable to work because of the virus.
  • Brazil now has the world's second highest number of cases, with nearly 365,000 confirmed.

But, but, but: As I wrote in March, orange juice prices are much higher than they have been in the past couple years but remain well below 2017 and 2018 highs.

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