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Mexico could soon be challenging Florida for leadership in USA orange juice market.

Mexico Could Soon Be Challenging Florida For Leadership in USA Orange Juice Market

"Don't look back," baseball pitching great Stachel Paige used to say. "Something might be gaining on you." Well, the Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC) has looked - and has seen Mexico closing in fast.

Mexico already has 25% more citrus acreage than Florida - 916,370 vs. 732,767 - according to Robert M. Behr, economic research director for the FDOC, who made a fact-finding trip in July. A lot of that acreage isn't in production yet, but it will be.

Even with current U.S. citrus tariffs, opined FDOC Executive Director Dan Gunter, "Florida is going to be facing stiffer competition from Mexico in the future." But the U.S. is now negotiating a free-trade agreement with Mexico similar to that already approved for Canada.

"We cannot emphasize enough the negative impact the proposed free trade agreement with Mexico would have on Florida citrus growers," Gunter said. "It costs more to grow citrus in Florida than to grow it in Mexico." Behr put the average cost in Mexico at $230 an acre, thanks to cheap labor and government subsidies, vs. $800 an acre in Florida.

What about the frozen orange juice market? Look out! Mexican output of frozen concentrated orange juice (FCOJ) was 65.5 million single strength equivalent (SSE) gallons in 1989-90, about a third of the 219.8 million SSE gallons recorded for the U.S. (mostly Florida) - but that Mexican total was 213.3% higher than levels observed in the 1970's.

"In just the last 10 years, Mexican exports of orange juice to the U.S. have increased more than 500%," Behr reported. "And as those non-bearing trees come into production, we can expect to see continued increases in those exports to the U.S., as well as to other world markets, including Japan." Uh, oh! Doesn't sound like good news for Brazil, either!

Citrus production acreage in Mexico was only 558,600 acres in 1980. Of the total of 642,200 acres now planted, 43.5% haven't begun to bear fruit yet - but those that have begun producing have yielded enough oranges to boost the harvest from 1.6 million metric tons in 1980-81 to 2.4 million in 1990-91. Meanwhile, according to the U.S. agricultural attache in Mexico, the number of FCOJ processing plants has increased from nine to 22.
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Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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