Orange Juice Slumps as Weather Improves

By Julie Wernau Features Dow Jones Newswires

Orange-juice futures slumped Monday with rain picking up in Florida, home to the most oranges used in U.S. juice.

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Frozen concentrated orange juice for July lost 0.5% to end at $1.3915 a pound on the ICE Futures U.S. exchange.

"Trees now are showing fruit of varying sizes and overall conditions are called good because of the irrigation," said Jack Scoville, vice president of Price Futures Group in Chicago.

Traders are the most bearish they have been about the orange-juice market since Oct. 13, 2015, with the bears outweighing the bulls by 2,551 contracts.

Florida saw the driest winter since the 1980s, according to WeatherBELL Analytics. But rainfall has picked up the last two weeks.

Still, most eyes are on Brazil, the largest orange producer, which has stepped up production and is expected to help boost orange-juice supplies in the U.S. beyond consumption needs this year.

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U.S. imports of juice are down 10% year over year through April, according to U.S. Census Bureau trade data. But those imports are expected to take off as Brazil's recovered crop makes its way around the world.

In its estimate for the 2017-18 orange crop in Brazil, Fundecitrus, a citrus growers and juice manufacturers association from the state of São Paulo, estimated that the region will produce 364.47 million boxes of oranges, versus its final estimate of 245.31 million boxes last season, a 49% increase.

Meanwhile on Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture increased its forecast for Florida orange production from 68 million boxes to 68.5 million boxes, still the lowest production since the 1963-1964 season.

Florida's groves have been decimated by citrus greening disease, which causes oranges to drop before they are ripe.

High prices for fruit and price increases to consumers have weighed on demand, along with competition from other exotic beverages.

Total orange-juice sales in gallons are down 7.4% year-to-date in the U.S., according to Nielsen. And worldwide consumption of orange juice is expected to drop for a second straight year, said the USDA.

In other markets, raw sugar for July fell 1.8% to end at 14.02 cents a pound, cocoa for September was up 2.5% to settle at $2,088 a ton, arabica coffee for July was up 0.8% to end at $1.276 a pound, and July cotton lost 0.7% to end at 75.13 cents a pound.

Write to Julie Wernau at julie.wernau@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 12, 2017 17:39 ET (21:39 GMT)