Orange Juice Falls to Six-Month Low Amid ‘Dismal’ U.S. Demand

Jul 31, 2014 12:49 pm ET

July 31 (Bloomberg) -- Orange-juice futures fell to the lowest since January as Americans are shunning the breakfast drink, driving down prices even as disease ravages groves in Florida, the world’s second-biggest citrus grower.

In the four weeks ended July 5, retail sales in U.S., the world’s biggest consumer, fell 8.3 percent from a year earlier to the lowest for the period since 2002, the Florida Department of Citrus said last week, citing Nielsen Co. data. In 2013-2014, world consumption will drop 3.4 percent, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said July 24.

Prices erased gains for the year, and are heading for the longest streak of monthly declines since October amid speculation that demand in the U.S. is falling faster than output. There have been only a few storms so far this Atlantic hurricane season, which runs through Nov. 30, leaving Florida crops safe from stormy weather, said Joe Nikruto, a senior market strategist for RJO Futures in Chicago.

“Sales numbers have been dismal,” Nikruto said in a telephone interview. “Many people will probably throw in the towel because we haven’t had any storms.”

Orange juice for September delivery dropped 1.2 percent to $1.379 a pound by 12:20 p.m. on ICE Futures U.S. in N.Y., after reaching $1.3725, the lowest for a most-active contract since Jan. 29.

Prices are down 18 percent since from this year’s high of $1.68, reached in April.

Net Longs

Per-capita consumption in the $1.45 billion domestic market dropped to 35.3 liters (9.3 gallons) in 2013 from 46.2 liters a decade earlier, according to Ross Colbert, a global beverage strategist for Rabobank International, who cited data from Euromonitor International.

In the week ended July 22, money managers held a net-long position, or bets on rally, of 395 futures and options, down from a 2014 peak of 7,102 in April, U.S. government data show.

In the season ending Sept. 30, Florida will collect 104.4 million boxes, the fewest since 1985, after a disease called citrus greening damaged trees and cut yields, the USDA said July 11. A box weighs 90 pounds, or about 41 kilograms. Brazil is the biggest producer.