Article: A lifeline for pineapple juice - Covid-19
Or not quite. Pineapple juice, like so many juices, is enjoying something of a rehabilitation but while it is reappearing on supermarket shelves in Europe, anyway, as retailers rationalise their juice listings, demand is still small (but, we think, increasing slowly) and most buyers are covered.
The year began with a lacklustre performance from Thailand. The 2019 summer crop had been poor and the winter crop was even worse. Processors shut down early. A meagre raw material supply meant high fruit prices and Thailand couldn't really raise its prices much above USD1,500 per tonne fob because buyers in Europe were sitting on inventory anyway and reckoned that price increases would kill what little demand there was.
While it takes some time for customs import and export data to come through, January's figures for the last quarter of 2019 showed that Thailand was already losing export markets to Costa Rica and the Philippines: its exports were down by nearly half.
Worryingly for Thailand, Costa Rican juice concentrate was only slightly more expensive than Thai, and Costa Rica enjoys a brix advantage as well as the advantage of being able to trade on the fact that its MD2 pineapple variety is considered a premium product. "Thailand is losing ground," observed an IHS Markit source.
In December, Thailand's exports crashed to a historic low. In Europe, price ideas were all over the place. Some sellers were offering 2018 product from inventory, some were trying to offer based on Thailand's latest price ideas, and (apparently) some were offering blends of 2018 and late 2019 product.
Thailand's raw material price went up to THB10 per kilo (equivalent to USD0.32 per tonne), then THB12/kg, and then higher, touching THB15/kg at one point.
And then, of course, the coronavirus reached Thailand. This brought more problems because lockdowns started in the Far East and farmers, worried that their workers might flee back to their homes, decided to harvest early, while they still could, and never mind the consequences. This has naturally resulted in smaller sized fruit - a problem for processors looking for decent sized rings for canning - and brix and ratio not of the best.
In the first quarter of this year, one Thai processor told IHS Markit that the company had received a mere 257,000 tonnes of fruit, compared with about 410,000 tonnes of fruit in January-March last season and 670,500 tonnes in the first quarter of 2011. Even that paled into insignificance with the 786,000 tonnes recorded in 2006. The bald facts are that the Philippines is now the world's largest pineapple juice supplier. Indonesia is doing relatively well, and Costa Rica has always been able to major on its premium not from concentrate juice.
From here to December
What is interesting is that buyers seem to be looking for alternative sources for pineapple juice. Vietnam grows Cayenne fruit these days (a few years ago it just produced Queen). Mexico grows MD2 fruit and has received enquiries for juice. Ghana grows MD2 but in Africa, Kenya is the important origin and also grows MD2. Kenyan concentrate is presently priced around USD1,890/tonne cfr Europe, according to one IHS Markit source, while Vietnamese Cayenne concentrate is slightly cheaper at USD1,900/tonne cfr.
IHS Markit expects that buyers will extend their choice of sources. This is not just because they may be able to source cheaper (though they may) but also because, at a time when supply chains are under severe stress and delivery delays or shortages are very likely, it makes sense to have a Plan B; or even C.
Will demand increase? Quite possibly, at least for the next few months. Beyond the end of the year? That depends on consumer demand and that, quite possibly, depends on the way the whole retail market is changing.
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