Florida’s OJ not so sunny

Orange juice futures hit a four-year high after Tropical Storm Colin tore across Florida. June 1 marked the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season, and three named storms have already struck this year, worrying citrus growers in America’s most hurricane-prone state.

This week, Colin dumped heavy rains on citrus groves, damaging fruit and threatening to further crimp Florida’s crop. Florida’s groves are already being devastated by a tree-killing disease, and the USDA projects this year’s crop to be the smallest in over 50 years.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian orange crop is in trouble as well due to heavy rains. Brazil is the world’s largest orange grower and juice exporter. Other major Brazilian crops like coffee, sugar, and soybeans are threatened by recent heavy rains, sending those crops to multi-year highs as well.

As a result, July frozen concentrated orange juice futures topped $1.72 per pound, the highest price since 2012.

USDA report boosts soybeans

The United States is seeing more demand for its soybeans, tightening supplies. Before this fall’s harvest comes in, soybean stockpiles will be only 375 million bushels, according to Friday morning’s USDA report.

This tight supply and fear of more weather problems helped push beans to a 22-month high at $12.08 per bushel on Friday.

Natural gas rises on A/C demand

Natural gas prices leapt to an eight-month high this week at $2.63 per million British thermal units.

Prices jumped after a government report showed rising demand, primarily from natural gas burning power plants generating electricity to run air conditioning. Forecasts for hot temperatures in the next few weeks could help keep demand strong.

Additionally, the recent oil spike to over $50 per barrel has helped to make natural gas more attractive as a cheaper fuel alternative. Some traders also cited an active start to the hurricane season as a bullish factor since storms can knock out natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico.

Nonetheless, natural gas inventories are more than 20 percent higher than this time last year and threaten to swell to record levels before the winter heating season begins.

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Opinions are solely the writers’. Walt and Alex Breitinger are commodity futures brokers with Paragon Investments in Silver Lake, Kan. They can be reached at (800) 411-3888 or www.paragoninvestments.com. This is not a solicitation of any order to buy or sell any market.