Boom and bust in the orange market: Brazil's crop plummets whilst Tunisia's reaches record high

By Louis Gore-Langton

- Last updated on GMT

El Niño has destroyed orange crops in Brazil, setting a price increase of 50% in 2017 ©iStock
El Niño has destroyed orange crops in Brazil, setting a price increase of 50% in 2017 ©iStock

Related tags Brazil

As climate crisis decimates Brazil’s orange crop, Tunisia is graced with a record yield. How will the European market be affected and can the crises resolve one another?

The El Niño weather phenomenon caused high temperatures, humidity and increased air pressure throughout Brazil, damaging conditions for the sensitive orange harvest.

A Rabobank report​ last year detailed how many areas of food production could be affected over the coming year. Coffee, wheat and sugar cane production are all experiencing disruption due to the weather conditions.   

Unijus: ‘This cannot go on’

The yield from 2016 was Brazil's lowest in 28 years, and is expected to hit the juice market hard.

"This is a historical crisis"​ said Carole Prisset, communications manager at Unijus, a national trade group for juice manufacturers whose members include Coca-Cola and Tetra Pak.

She added that despite a minor drop in global demand for orange juice, the price is expected to rise 50% in France this year alone.

“Those increases weaken the professionals of the sector who greatly absorbed the continuous rise of raw materials prices for more than a year. This situation cannot go on,”​ she said.

Meanwhile, a drop in yield on Florida’s orange farms has strained the situation even further by increasing the demand on Brazil's tight supply from the US.

Prisset warned: “There is no real short-term solution. Obviously, buyers will look for and find other supply sources all around the world such as South Africa, North Africa (Morocco), Central America, the Mediterranean area and Asia.

“But I remind you that whatever the other sources are, those remain anecdotal and marginal [in comparison] to the Brazilian production.”

Tunisian bloom

Meanwhile, a record orange crop has come to Tunisia, a major grower of its native Maltese orange. The Maltese variety is known to be the sweetest variety of blood orange. 

After a maximum yield of around 400,000 tonnes per annum in the past five years, 2016 has seen a harvest of 550,000 tonnes in Tunisia.

Whilst growers are astonished, saying dry weather conditions may have caused the growth, pressure is now on to sell the crop before it spoils.

Unfortunately for the growers, Maltese oranges cannot substitute the loss in the Brazilian harvest.

Prisset added: "The oranges produced in Tunisia are mainly Maltese orange which is a variety that we don’t use in juice production. Moreover, there is no existing infrastructures to transform oranges into juice or supply chain to export those oranges."

Nevertheless, Tunisia's citrus growing association, Groupement Interprofes­sionel des Fruits (GIF), has announced it will be showcasing Tunisia's oranges at the Paris International Agriculture Salon from February 25 to March 5 this year, attempting to offset the surplus. 

The salon will feature hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of spectators looking to buy and trade produce from around France. How much of Tunisia's additional crop can be sold on remains to be seen. 

The industry will remain in a fix throughout 2017 regardless, as the Tunisian oversupply cannot effectively compensate for Brazil's disastrous shortage. 

The Tunisian orange industry gives employment to around 12,000 families, according to GIF.

Related topics Ingredients