Over the past four months, every industry has grappled with how to adjust its business to the pandemic. Agricultural supply chains have been massively disrupted. Unfortunately, 2020 will go down as a year when many American businesses were shaken. But economic recovery may now favor rural communities for the first time in several years. Unlike previous recessions, low population density is now vital for economic resilience in the face of COVID-19.
Another record large almond crop is expected as harvest commences in the weeks ahead, putting greater focus on the US tree nut export program. Domestic demand for tree nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pistachios has been strong. However, with two-thirds of the US almond crop exported and one-third consumed domestically, headwinds from the export market are expected to have a greater impact on almond shipments and prices than the surge in US demand.
The US Valencia orange harvest concluded last quarter with the USDA pegging the crop at 47.0 million boxes, down 4% YoY as growers continue to struggle with HLB, or citrus greening, and weather extremes resulting in a smaller harvest.
Total orange production nationwide was down 1.7% at 118.5 million boxes. Positive news came last quarter as retail sales of orange juice jumped to the highest level in five years as COVID-19 lockdowns caused consumers to return to eating breakfast at home and seek foods high in vitamin C. Orange juice sales in April jumped nearly 50% YoY.
Surges in COVID-19 cases in South America are raising alarms over the ability to import citrus in the months ahead. Local restrictions in exporting countries may impact logistics of moving citrus abroad. In Brazil, which is the largest OJ exporter, orange production is figured to be down about 20% YoY due to drier than normal growing conditions. Frozen orange juice futures have rallied to the highest level in a year on production concerns and the rise in demand.