“We’ve seen our cash market increase since the beginning of the season,” he says. “It hasn’t affected the bottom line a tremendous amount, but it’s been helpful.”
Hope for valencias
In early February, the forecast seemed promising for the upcoming valencia season.
Ebel says the earlier the valencia season ends, the less the effect of fruit drop probably will be.
“If it goes late, they could run into a problem,” he says.
Otherwise, “There probably will be some extra drop than what they’re used to, but hopefully, it won’t accelerate as the harvest season wears on.”
It’s hard to tell if valencias will experience much fruit drop, Rouse says.
The valencia season was expected to start early this year, with picking beginning in March.
If drop does occur, it most likely will be evident before April 1, he says.
Things were looking up volumewise for The Story Co. in early February.
“Luckily, thus far, we have not seen the late oranges—the valencias—follow suit [with the early-midseason varieties],” Story says. “We’re keeping a close eye on that on a daily basis in all parts of the state.”
Story was trying to remain hopeful.
“The optimistic side of me wants to [say] that it’s just a one-time event,” he says. “But I don’t know that to be true.”
Concern at retail
There is some concern about orange juice movement at retail because supermarkets are reluctant to reduce prices to pre-hurricane levels, Spreen says.
“They’re not sure they’re going to have the fruit to be able to sustain higher movement,” he says.
Spreen says it’s a “bit of a chicken-and-an-egg problem.”
“If you’re worried about the supply, you’re not going to cut the price to get the movement going,” he says. “Yet that’s precisely what they need to do to get the movement going.”
Ebel is optimistic that increasingly health-conscious consumers will continue to buy orange juice, even at a higher price.
“Orange juice is a healthy drink, and people know that,” he says. “I think there will always be a market for it.”