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OJ squeeze?

David Brancaccio Jan 10, 2012

Today a visit from the ghost of breakfast future. One of the most striking numbers from the financial markets on Tuesday was the wholesale price of orange juice. It hit a 34-year high on news that the Food and Drug Administration is stepping up testing for an illegal fungicide reportedly found in the juice of oranges imported from Brazil. Apparently, an anonymous juice company reported the fungicide to the government last month.

The fungicide — carbendazim — is legal in many countries, including Europe, and the FDA has not yet ordered a recall since levels of the chemical are so low. All the same, the price rose 11 percent in just one day. According to the Florida Department of Citrus, about 15 percent of the orange juice Americans drink comes from Brazil.

Judith Ganes-Chase follows soft commodities such as orange juice. She says the fungicide doesn’t pose a health threat and is unlikely to lead to a recall. Plus, she says there are plenty of oranges ready to squeeze in if supply gets tight during the U.S. government investigation. It may be a coincidence, but, she says, a huge amount of oranges were imported in the past couple of months before today’s announcement.

Overall, Ganes-Chase says the markets are really overacting about OJ today. When the FDA’s test results are available in a day or two, she’s not expecting a big jump in prices at the grocery store.

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