Home Industry News Citrus Citrus Greening (HLB) Impacting Brazilian Citrus Crop – Annual Report

Citrus Greening (HLB) Impacting Brazilian Citrus Crop – Annual Report

The Brazilian orange crop for Marketing Year (MY) 2023/24 is forecast at 408 million 40.8-kg boxes (MBx) – standard reference, equivalent to 16.5 million metric tons (MMT), a decrease of 1.03 percent compared to the estimate of current crop MY 2022/23 (around 412.3 million boxes or 16.67 MMT), due to the incidence of greening, which has been affecting Brazil’s citrus belt. Meanwhile, the average fruit weight is expected to be 158 grams for MY 2023/24, as a result of unfavorable climate and diseases, with expectations of lower production and fruit quality. FCOJ 65 Brix equivalent production for MY 2023/24 is forecast at 1.05 MMT, a decrease of 1.64 percent vis-à-vis the estimate for MY 2022/23 (1.12 MMT), due to downward expected availability of fruit for processing provoked by extremely high temperatures and the greening incidence. A significant share will keep supplying the U.S. market due to limited juice availability from Florida provoked by hurricane Ian.

FRESH ORANGES

PS&D Table

The following table provides total Brazilian fresh orange production, supply, and distribution (PS&D) for Brazilian (BR) marketing years (MY, July-June) 2022/23, 2023/24, and 2024/25. The MY mentioned above are equivalent to U.S. MY 2021/22, 2022/23, and 2023/24, respectively.

Table 1

Production, Supply and Distribution for Brazilian Fresh Oranges

Note: There is a one-year lag between the BR MY and the U.S. MY. For example, BR MY 2023/24 is equivalent to U.S. MY 2022/23. To ensure data continuity, the current Brazilian MY 2023/24 will be referred to as U.S. MY 2022/23 throughout this report.

General

Post forecasts the total Brazilian orange crop for MY 2023/24 (July/June) at 408 million 40.8-kg boxes (MBx) – standard reference, equivalent to 16.5 million metric tons (MMT), a decrease of 1.03 percent compared to current Post estimate for MY 2022/23 (412.3 million boxes or 16.67 MMT), due to greening incidence.

The commercial area of the state of São Paulo and the western part of Minas Gerais (known as “Triângulo Mineiro”) should produce 307 million 40.8-Kg boxes (12.52 MMT) for MY 2022/2023, a projection based on the most recent data released by the Defense Fund for Citriculture (Fundecitrus) in December 2023. Considering the total citrus belt estimated production, approximately 27.60 million boxes should be harvested in the Triângulo Mineiro region, as reported by Fundecitrus, and 280 million boxes in São Paulo.

Around 30 percent of Brazil’s orange production is destined to the market and 70 percent is used for juice processing. The main orange varieties that Brazil produces are Hamlim, Westin, Rubi, Valencia Americana, Seleta, Pineapple, BRS Alvorada, Pera Rio – pear orange, Valencia, “Folha Murcha” Valencia, and Natal. The citriculture chain in Brazil is highly industrialized.

Figure 1

Orange Production History in the Brazilian Citrus Belt

The graph above (Figure 1) shows the orange crop production history in the Brazilian citrus belt, reflecting significant oscillations over the course of twenty-four years, ranging from 450 million 40.8Kb boxes in BR MY 1999/00 to 250 million BR MY 2010/11. During its big harvests, the Brazilian citrus belt produced an average of 400 million boxes, particularly in BR MY 2011/12, 2012/13, 2017/18, 2019/20. However, in the past four market years, the average has fallen around 100 million to an average of 300 million.

According to Post contacts, the current average of orange boxes produced in the Brazilian citrus belt reaches 915 boxes per hectare, even though some larger citrus growers produce 2,000 boxes per hectare due to the following reasons: 1- adapted varieties (more productive plants) and a mix of varieties (early oranges are very productive, compared to the others, mid-season and late); 2- densification of orchards (in the 1980s there were around 250 trees/ha. now there are about 700 trees/ha); 3- pruning and management techniques for better productivity and more day-to-day management. Today, 70 percent less pesticides are used in each pesticide application.

Data from Fundecitrus shows an estimate to the weight of oranges at 160 grams (255 fruits per box) upon the current harvest, representing an increase of 3.77 percent in relation to the average weight recorded in the previous crop MY 2021/22, and a 1.23 percent growth in average weight when compared to the last ten crops.

Production

According to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics – IBGE in November 2023 citrus is produced in Brazil on 584,443 hectares. The citrus belt accounts for approximately 83 percent of the cultivated area in Brazil. Taking into account the estimated 307 million of boxes produced in the Brazilian citrus belt in MY 2022/23, post contacts inform that 300 million are produced in São Paulo and Minas Gerais regions, of which 50 million are in natura and 250 million are used for processing. According to Fundecitrus, the second half of 2023 has observed Minas Gerais producing more than Florida. Approximately 27.02 million boxes are expected to be produced in the Triângulo Mineiro region for MY 2022/23, against 16 million boxes in Florida.

In Brazil, citrus growers plant and sell according to market demand, many of them through juice industry contracts. The citrus belt, however, also has the highest incidence of plants with symptoms of the main citrus disease, greening (or Huanglongbing – HLB). According to data published by Fundecitrus in 2023, 38 percent of the plants in the citrus belt have symptoms of the disease.

Rainfall was frequent and voluminous from January to April 2023 throughout the São Paulo citrus belt, making MY 2022/23 orange crop produce fruit with good size development. Moreover, the decrease in the estimated production of pear orange in the citrus belt is being offset by an increase in the production of early varieties. Recent data from Fundecitrus reports that oranges of the early varieties benefited from the abundant rainfall in the beginning of 2023, which resulted in an estimate of 2.27 million boxes. The other varieties (Pera Rio, Valencia, Valencia Folha Murcha and Natal) have an estimate down by 4.39 million boxes, due to the size of the fruit, smaller than expected.

Throughout 2023, temperatures reached astonishing numbers, ranging from 95°F to 104°F. The process known as “evapotranspiration”, by which the land transfers water and plants transfer transpiration to the atmosphere, is higher as the heatwave increases. With the arrival of the dry season from May 2023 to August 2023, rain became scarce in the citrus belt region in São Paulo, falling 26 percent below the average, causing the trees to suffer from drought stress.

According to the Brazilian Economic Research Center (CEPEA), throughout 2023, many oranges were withered and sunburned, varieties that consumers do not usually buy. To avoid those fruit conditions and premature fruit fall, many producers anticipated the harvest of late varieties, mainly Valencia and Natal. Abundant rain in October 2023 relieved drought stress, but the availability of oranges on the fresh market remained restricted.

A heatwave that hit the state of São Paulo in November 2023 caused partial fruit abortion, which is when the fruit falls off before the final filling stage. This happens so that the tree does not die. At high temperatures, the fruit’s stomata close – the structure that ensure gas exchange -, automatically reducing photosynthesis and negatively impacting the production.

In irrigated areas damages tend to be mitigated, since orange flowers are more advanced. These areas are in the north of São Paulo state, where temperatures are usually higher. Irrigation facilitates planting, since the regular rainfall cannot always be proper for crops, and it can reduce the risk of high temperatures. According to Fundecitrus, the practice of irrigation is considered a complementary strategy. There are around 36 percent of irrigated hectares in the citrus belt and 63 percent of non- irrigated hectares, or hectares without information on irrigation.

Fundecitrus emphasized in its most recent orange crop forecast from December 2023 that the citrus belt harvest reached 82 percent of production in the middle of November 2023, 26 percent faster compared to previous years. To produce oranges all year round, nine months of harvest are needed, which runs from May to February.

With El Niño in Brazil, heat waves started in June 2023. High temperatures and rain shortage in the Brazilian citrus belt is expected to continue to be a cause of concern for the next harvest (MY 2023/24), according to Post contacts. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), along with its National Weather Service and funded U.S. institutions, an El Niño forecast from November 2023 has a 62 percent probability of continuing until April or June 2024.

Figure 2

Maximum Daily Temperate in Brazil, Dec 4-10, 2023

A compilation of surveys by Brazilian institutions, including the Brazilian National Institute of Meteorology, released in November 2023 a newsletter on El Niño. The climate forecast for December 2023/January-February 2024 indicates a greater likelihood of temperatures above the normal range in most of the country, including the citrus belt area.

The Brazilian map in Figure 2 on the left highlights the current behavior of high temperatures in Brazil (Dec 4-10), showing evidence that El Niño may worsen the temperature oscillations in most of Brazil. In the citrus belt area, red color shades on the map indicate temperature ranging from 86°F to 104°F.

Area

Post forecasts the area planted for oranges at 590,000 ha for MY 2023/24, 10,000 ha downward compared to Post current estimate for MY 2022/23 (600,000 ha), due to densely cultivated plants.

São Paulo is the only state that compiles trees planted and tree inventory data. According to Crop Forecast Survey data from Fundecitrus (PES in Portuguese) from May 2023, bearing trees total 169.29 million and cover an area of 399,415 hectares in the citrus belt. This represents an increase of 0.41 percent in the number of trees over the previous, released in 2022.

Even though the whole country produces oranges, the Brazilian map in Figure 3 bellow shows the main citrus-growing regions in Brazil, according to data from IBGE (2022). It denotes the states of Bahia (3.39 percent); Paraná (3.88 percent) and Rio Grande do Sul (2.11 percent) as the main orange production states outside of the Brazilian citrus belt (76.94 percent in São Paulo and 6.44 percent in Minas Gerais).

Figure 3

Main Citrus-Growing Regions in Brazil

Data on the map in Figure 4 below covers the area of land planted with orange trees in each of the twelve regions that make up the five sectors of the citrus belt: North, Northwest, Central, South and Southwest. Variation in area is indicated by colors. The darkest color, for example, in navy blue, denotes regions where there are the most land in used for orange tree planting, including, among other municipalities, Avaré, with 58,824 ha and Duartina, with 60,446 ha. Meanwhile, there are 12,169 ha in Altinópolis and 11,570 in Brotas, highlighted in the map by the lightest shade of orange.

Figure 4

Brazilian Citrus Belt per Region

Currently in Brazil there are a total of 5,134 orange grove properties, most of them large producers with high productivity. In addition to pests, high production costs and an insufficient labor force has driven many small producers away from the industry. As reported by Post contacts, it costs around BRL 40 million to invest in a citrus farm.

The current scenario makes it increasingly likely that citrus farming, especially on small and medium farms, will be converted to other crops, such as sugar cane in the São Paulo region or livestock farming. The main reason is because the production of sugar cane in São Paulo is less risky than that of oranges. Moreover, there are already mills in the São Paulo region, making it easier to switch the production to a new commodity. Thus, prices of other crops may define the fate of the Brazilian citrus industry in the coming months. Fundecitrus highlights, however, that the production of oranges requires a smaller area for production, compared with other crops. Orange production compared with sugarcane, for example, has an area 14 times smaller and a profitability of around 2.5 times higher.

In the long term, Post contacts report that the trend of the orange industry expanding outside the São Paulo and Minas Gerais area is likely to continue. In the state of Bahia, for example, the greening disease does not exist, due to the climate and the distance from the main region of the citrus belt.

The next couple of years will be crucial to determine which new areas Embrapa considers to be promising for citrus planting in the so-called expanded citrus belt. Besides taking climate risk into account, agricultural planning for planting and producing citrus in new areas must include the use of healthy seedlings produced in a protected environment.

Recent studies conducted by Fundecitrus and Embrapa funded by Innocent Drinks, a British-based company that produces smoothies and juice, have found that the entire citrus belt holds a stock of approximately 36 million tons of carbon, equivalent to 133.4 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). This is the same emitted by the city of São Paulo in around eight years. The absorption of the gas can contribute to reducing the impacts of global warming, according to Embrapa, since the agricultural land functions simultaneously as the source and the drain for carbon, while stabilizing and securing fauna in the citrus farming areas.

Tree Inventory and Yields

For MY 2023/24, Post forecasts 1.80 boxes/tree, a decrease of 1.1 percent from the estimate for MY 2022/23 (1.82 boxes/tree) due to the potential negative impacts of greening and El Niño. Total Brazilian tree inventory for MY 2023/24 is forecast by Post at 240 million trees and estimated at 240.5 million trees for MY 2022/23. The decrease is mainly expected in the São Paulo commercial citrus belt.

The graph from Figure 5 below shows the current yield estimate from Fundecitrus for MY 2022/23, with a total of 1.83 boxes/tree embracing all five regions of the citrus belt. The north stands out as the most productive region, with 2.26 boxes/tree estimated.

Figure 5

Yield Estimate in the Brazilian Citrus Belt

Post forecasts the average fruit weight in the Brazilian citrus belt for MY 2023/24 to be 158 grams, as a result of unfavorable climate and disease impact, with expectations of lower production and fruit quality. Moreover, Post forecasts 258 fruits to fill a 40.8-Kg/90-pound box. Considering all orange varieties, Fundecitrus reports that it is estimated 255 fruits to make up a 40.8-kg box for MY 2022/23 in the citrus belt. For that amount, oranges weight is estimated at 160 grams, in contrast to the previous projection of 165 grams…

Read the full USDA Foreign Ag Service report HERE.

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