Orange-Juice Futures Close Higher on Frost Fears

By Julie WernauFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Orange-juice futures closed higher on Wednesday with temperatures in the Florida citrus belt threatening the state's already decimated crop.

Frozen concentrated orange juice for March rose 2.1%, to end at $1.3935 a pound on the ICE Futures U.S. Exchange, the highest close since Dec. 19.

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Rains over the next few days could slow harvesting, said MDA Weather Services, and temperatures are expected to remain cold through the weekend, with some frost likely in northern citrus areas by Thursday.

But the firm said no hard freeze is expected. In past years, hard freezes in Florida have devastated the state's citrus groves.

A hurricane that struck Florida's citrus crop last year affected groves that had already been struggling because of an incurable disease called citrus greening that causes fruit to drop before it is ripe.

The situation has spiked prices for orange juice at retail, eating into demand. The U.S. Department of Agriculture in December placed its latest Florida estimate at 46 million boxes, which would be the lowest orange crop since 1945.

Bears in the orange juice market are largely focused on Brazil, the world's largest orange grower, which is expected to provide imports for the frozen concentrated orange juice market that will boost supplies in the U.S.

Fundecitrus, a citrus growers and juice manufacturers association from the state of Sao Paulo, upgraded its estimate for the 2017-18 orange crop to 385.2 million boxes in December. This is a 3% bump from its most recent estimate in September and a 57% increase over last year's final estimate of 245.31 million boxes.

In other markets, raw sugar for March ended down 0.1%, at 15.31 cents a pound; cocoa for March lost 1.5%, to settle at $1,907 a ton; arabica coffee for March closed down 1.2%, at $1.2860 a pound; and March cotton rose 0.8%, to settle at 78.11 cents a pound.

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

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 03, 2018 18:10 ET (23:10 GMT)