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Orange juice shortage looming this summer as disease turns fruits green

Global orange supplies hit by disease which turns the fruit green
Britain is facing an orange juice shortage this summer as a “greening disease” hits global crop supplies - Letizia le Fur/Onoky

Britain is facing an orange juice shortage this summer as a “greening disease” hits global crop supplies.

Farmers in Brazil, the world’s largest producer of citrus fruits, have been plagued by the incurable disease which causes oranges to turn green, misshapen and bitter.

They have been forced to harvest the fruit earlier than usual this year to prevent the blight from damaging it, The Grocer reported, leading to a smaller crop and a “disappointing” quality of oranges.

The disease, combined with adverse weather conditions affecting suppliers in southern Europe, means demand in the UK could outstrip supply by the summer, industry experts told the trade magazine.

Andrew Opie, Director of Food & Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, told the Telegraph: “Orange crops in key producing regions have been impacted by extreme weather events including hurricanes and flooding, and most recently a citrus greening disease.”

He added that British retailers “will take all necessary steps and work closely with their suppliers to minimise the impact on customers should the need arise.”

‘Unprecedented situation’

Spain’s supply of oranges has taken a hit after the country suffered record high temperatures last year which affected crops.

Meanwhile, the price of orange juice has already begun to soar in Britain in recent months.

An average litre of own label orange juice in Britain’s major supermarkets has risen by 31 per cent year on year to an average of £1.35 but, significantly, by 13 per cent since the beginning of this year alone.

Gavin Partington, director general at the British Soft Drinks Association, said crop shortages had created an “unprecedented situation in the orange juice market”.

“Producers are trying to find efficiencies to help absorb and avoid passing significant price rises onto consumers but inevitably there has been some inflation on the product due to the chronic difficulties around obtaining oranges for juicing.

“It should be noted that most other juice products are not seeing the same shortages of their constituent fruit,” he said.

Hybrid choice

Andrew Gibb, the director of Coldpress juices, which is sold in supermarkets including Waitrose, Asda and Co-op, told The Grocer its costs had doubled since 2022.

The company said it had “no option” but to pass on “relatively modest” 11 per cent to 15 per cent price increases to most customers this year.

Mr Gibb said the brand was combating the “orange crisis” with the launch of a mandarin orange juice “which we are able to sell at the same price as our apple juices and now 15 per cent cheaper than our flagship Valencia orange”.

The Telegraph reported this month that clementines could be on the way out within the next 10 years as shoppers are choosing new seedless hybrid mandarins.

Tesco is launching four new hybrid mandarins to appeal to British tastes. The seedless hybrids, which are a combination of mandarins, satsumas, oranges or even grapefruit, have become more popular with British consumers, who prefer sweeter fruit over their European counterparts.

Fears of an orange juice shortage come after supermarket shelves were left empty last year, after bad weather in Morocco and Spain left importers struggling to find tomatoes and other fruit and vegetables.