A sustainable growth model for Yucatan orange juice, reports Remer Lane
The citrus industry of Mexico has grown into the largest supplier of orange juice by value to the United States accounting for 48% of imports in 2019. While Brazil still holds the title of the largest supplier of orange juice to the global market, accounting for 36% of total supply by value, Mexico is growing fast and strategically positioned to continue to grow as the primary supplier to the US.
This was not always the case and the growth in Mexican exports to the US has been at the cost of the Florida crop. Suffering from a variety of challenges, but primarily Huanglongbing (HLB) or Citrus Greening Disease, the Florida crop has dropped from a peak of 9.9 million tonnes to a current USDA crop forecast for the 2020-21 Season of 2.3 million tonnes, opening the door to Mexico’s 4.7 million tonne production to more than double its supply of Orange Juice by value between 2011 and 2019 from USD151 million to USD341 million.
Mexico has not avoided HLB but has not suffered as much as Florida and in some regions, such as the Yucatan, there has been very little impact. While orange yields per hectare in the Yucatan are about 73% of Mexico’s 14.5 tonnes per hectare, there is one fascinating reason contributing to such a discrepancy (but it’s not just the heat). The only citrus processor in the Yucatan is Arpen Juice.
Arpen (www.Arpen.mx) is a boutique juice processor whose special and particular clients greatly appreciate. They don’t just process orange, but also lime, lemon, tangerine, grapefruit, and uniquely bitter orange. Furthermore, they don’t own any farms and are supplied solely by Fairtrade certified smallholders who as a cooperative own a percentage of Arpen.
What is unique about Arpen is the level of support to their farmers. Arpen is enabling an agroforestry model. While this approach slightly decreases the average yields per hectare, it offers distinctive advantages: regenerative agriculture; improved soil nutrition; reduced impact from climate change; biodiversity; improved wildlife habitat; reduced herbicide and pesticide use; improved quality; and a social impact of 10-months of farmer income through multi-cropping.
What this approach and especially the biodiversity have provided is crop protection against issues such as HLB which while present is not causing any significant issues. Arpen is staking their operations on a sustainable-regenerative agroforestry model in coordination with reNature (www.renature.co) who are investing in the Citrus Agroforestry Education Center in Mexico. With additional coordination with Terra Group (www.terra.bz) , Arpen and the farmers are linked to a global network of agribusiness advisory, investors and technologies focused on improving agriculture production and the environment.
The future for Mexican orange and citrus juices is bright. The USDA reports a 5-Year compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) for Mexican FCOJ at 6% with a production CAGR of 5%. Global market share projections for Mexican FCOJ under HTS 200911, expect Mexico to grow from 12% market share in 2018 to an 18% market share by 2023, as prepared by Fingalee Analytics with the United States being the primary destination market.
While the US and EU have experienced consumption contractions over the past few years, ResearchAndMarkets as reported in Business Wire projects global consumption to grow with an anticipated CAGR of +0.6% from 2018 to 2025 bringing total market volume to 2.5 million tonnes by the end of 2025.
The key pressure points on the industry are sustainability, social impact, environmental impact, consumer preferences, and health concerns about sugar. The big turn-around bonus in times of COVID-19 has been the resurgence in demand for vitamin C and the health benefits attributed to the consumption of orange juice.
The Yucatan is ahead in addressing sustainability and regenerative issues and is paying special attention to the Social Impact through diversified production of the Agroforestry model to move away from a commodity-based product to a more value-added impactful product. While many have lamented the fall of orange juice, the future looks promising for Mexico and with companies like Arpen and the efforts of farmers in the Yucatan, the consumption of orange juice will transition to being a premium beverage, prized by consumers.
Remer Lane is an international investment banking consultant and serves as President for Fingalee Analytics and Terra Organics. He has spent the last 35-years working with the food and juice industries throughout the world from field production to processing to offering a product to the final consumer. Through COVID-19, he has continued to travel to Tanzania, Serbia and Mexico on behalf of his clients to assure continued operations and opportunities for increased profitability.