Strong Finish for 2017–18 Brazilian Citrus Season

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Global Perspectives

Marcos Fava Neves

By Marcos Fava Neves

The last Fundecitrus announcement (April 10) of the season for the Brazilian citrus crop was 398.35 million boxes. This includes:

  • 77.48 million boxes of Hamlin, Westin and Rubi
  • 18.02 million boxes of Valencia Americana and Valencia Argentina
  • 118.47 million boxes of Pera Rio
  • 139.62 million boxes of Valencia
  • 44.76 million boxes of Natal (Navel)

Fruits were produced from 175 million trees.

The Brazilian Citrus Belt had 753 fruits per tree and 246 fruits per box. The crop is 62 percent bigger than in the 2016–17 season, which had 245.31 million boxes and was 25 percent larger than the average crop size of the last 10 years.

The 2017–18 crop had an average of 1033 boxes/hectare, much higher than the 634 boxes/hectare in 2016–17. This was due to very good climatic conditions for the blossom and development of the crop and better grove treatments by farmers.

The initial Brazilian estimate (May 2017) was 9.3 percent smaller than the final number.

The large 2017–18 crop is allowing Brazil to help with the huge supply problem that happened in Florida due to Hurricane Irma. The May orange crop forecast for Florida from the U.S. Department of Agriculture remained around 45 million boxes for the 2017–18 season. However, conditions for the new crop are better as groves begin to recover from Hurricane Irma.

From July 2017 to the end of March 2018, Brazilian exports were 29 percent higher in volume and income. The volume of juice sent to the United States climbed approximately 60 percent, reaching almost 140,000 tons. A major market of Brazilian juice is Europe, where 513,000 tons were shipped (20 percent higher). The value was $930 million, almost 60 percent higher.

Markets are calm and ranging around $2,300 per ton in Europe for frozen concentrated orange juice and $650 per ton for not-from-concentrate juice.

The initial estimate for the Brazilian 2018–19 crop released by Fundecitrus on May 9 was 288,290 million boxes (small crop). This is probably the most important number for 2018 since it directs prices and strategies. No more than four people have the huge responsibility of keeping this figure confidential until the date of the initial estimate announcement.

There’s good news coming from Brazil regarding technologies to prevent citrus greening. Fundecitrus is researching a plant, dama da noite, which attracts the Asian citrus psyllid due to the scent of its flower. Dama da noite is a type of night-blooming orange jasmine [Murraya exotica (Huang, 1997) and Murraya paniculata (Huang, 1959)]. A genetically modified version of the plant, which has the insecticide in its genomic code, works as a trap to kill the psyllid when it arrives in the plant. This is a promising control alternative that received a lot of media coverage in Brazil.

Another development in citrus greening prevention is using Tamarixia radiata wasps that are created in the laboratory and released in the field. The wasps act against Asian citrus psyllids. Two and a half million Tamarixia radiata have been reared and released in Brazil.

As someone who has seen the destruction citrus greening has brought to U.S. and Brazilian growers, I rely on and support the research aimed at finding a way forward to achieve a healthy orange juice supply — in both the environmental and economic senses.

Marcos Fava Neves is a professor at the University of São Paulo (Brazil), international adjunct professor at Purdue University (Indiana) and author of “The Future of Food Business” (World Scientific, 2014).

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