(Bloomberg News) Orange-juice futures rose the most in five years as freezing weather damages citrus crops in Florida, and a U.S. government probe of a fungicide used on fruit in Brazil may limit imports.
About 5 percent of the groves in central Florida, the main growing region, were damaged last week as temperatures dropped below freezing, and the weather will turn cooler next week, said Kyle Tapley, a meteorologist at MDA EarthSat Weather. The Food & Drug Administration said yesterday it will investigate the use of carbendazim on orange trees in Brazil, which supplies about 25 percent of the juice consumed in the U.S.
Slumping U.S. inventories already have helped send orange- juice futures up almost 39 percent in New York since the end of September, the biggest gain among the 19 commodities tracked by the Thomson Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index. Retail prices as of Dec. 24 were up 7.9 percent from a year earlier at $6.12 a gallon, according to Nielsen data.
"Orange juice jumped due to the frigid weather that permanently damaged some of the crops here," Jim Garasz, a principal at Transworld Futures in Tampa, Florida, said today in a telephone interview. "And there's more cold weather coming in here late tomorrow. That spooks the market."
Orange juice for March delivery jumped the 20-cent exchange limit, or 11 percent, to settle at $2.0775 a pound at 2 p.m. on ICE Futures U.S. in New York, a record for the contract and the highest for a most-active contract since March 2007. The gain was the biggest since October 2006 and left prices up 23 percent this month.
"The market is starting to factor in that maybe there was more to the damage than initially thought," Michael Smith, the president of T&K Futures and Options in Port St. Lucie, Florida, said in a telephone interview.
About 25 percent of the citrus-growing region in Florida, the world's top orange producer after Brazil, suffered a hard freeze during the first week in January, with temperatures in most other areas cold enough to cause frost, Gaithersburg, Maryland-based MDA said after the freeze. Oranges will be damaged if temperatures drop below 28 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 2 Celsius) for three to four hours.
Some forecasters say the weather will improve in the state.
"We will get a cool shot over the weekend, into the low 40s to mid 40s, but we don't see any kind of problem like we saw last week," Joel Widenor, a meteorologist with Commodity Weather Group in Bethesda, Maryland, said in a telephone interview.