Though the covid-19 pandemic has much of the economy ailing, it’s been pretty sweet for at least one industry: fresh citrus and orange juice.
A surge of Americans trying to fortify their immune systems to stave off the novel coronavirus has resulted in a great year for the citrus market, whose products are packed with Vitamin C.
While many sectors of the food market have been devastated by the closure of restaurants and the disruption of supply chains, consumers are still flocking to citrus products. Juice prices haven’t spiked just yet, but frozen orange juice futures are riding high, jumping about 20 percent at one point, according to growers and industry sources.
“The uptick we’ve seen of both fresh oranges and grapefruit sales, and for juice, has been remarkable,” said Dan Richey, a grapefruit grower and president and CEO of Riverfront Packing Co. in Vero Beach, Florida. “We attribute that to the recognition of citrus juices to boost the immune system.”
“The demand for citrus is also about shelf life. People are buying things they can store for a while,” Richey continued. “We’ve seen a 60 percent uptick for citrus every week since March.”
The only substantial exception to the success of citrus amid the pandemic has been a slump in the sale of lemons, which grocery shoppers don’t typically flock to, but are a kitchen staple at most dine-in restaurants.
Some restaurant-bound orange juice orders have also been disrupted, especially in the breakfast market, which has taken a beating during the lockdown. But Andrew Meadows, director of communications for Florida Citrus Mutual, doesn’t view that as much an issue for his industry. “Any slack in sales to restaurants was more than offset by the growth in retail,” Meadows says.
Next week, a new orange juice sales report will be released, and Meadows says that the industry predicts continued high demand. “The processing plants here are going full steam right now,” he says. “We’ve had high inventories, but we’re hoping the spike in retail sales moved some of that.”