SAO PAULO/NEW YORK, May 11 (Reuters) - Brazil's orange production is expected to fall 25.6% in the 2020-21 season (May-April) when compared with the previous crop, to 287.7 million boxes (40.8 kg each), citrus research center Fundecitrus said in a study on Monday.
Fundecitrus said the sharp production fall in the main producing areas in the states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais is due to dryer-than-normal weather late last year, which hurt fruit development.
It also said production tends to fall in a year following a very large crop, as was the case in 2019-20, because trees take longer to recover nutrients needed to produce new fruit.
Brazil is the world's largest orange juice exporter. Orange production in the states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais supplies the juice plants that are mostly in those areas.
Fruit production in the new season is seen 12.5% below the average production for the last 10 years, Fundecitrus said.
Marcos Fava Neves, who coordinated the study, said the smaller crop and the growing global consumption this year due to the coronavirus pandemic will help reduce and balance orange juice stocks, which were high after the large crop last season.
"The juice industry saw a pick-up in demand this year since the juice is seen as a product that boosts immunity," Neves said.
Fundecitrus general manager Juliano Ayres said the harvest will be challenging due to precautionary measures to be adopted to avoid spreading the virus. Sao Paulo state is the epicenter of the COVID-19 in Brazil.
But he said he believes growers and the industry will be able to deal with the difficulties.
(Reporting by Roberto Samora and Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Dan Grebler)
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