It's enough to make Florida jealous--vast sunblessed groves of orange trees stretching as far as the eye can see.
Brazil's Sao Paulo state has cornered 80 percent of the international juice market and produces more oranges than the entire United states.The state's orange groves occupy 20,800 square miles, an area almost twice the size of Belgium, and are expected to produce almost 9 million tons of oranges in the 1988-89 season.
Unlike Florida, the world's orange king until it was toppled by Brazil, Sao Paulo state has no worries about frost damage.
"Sao Paulo has ideal land for oranges and the dry, hot climate makes them sweet and tasty," said Jose Luiz Cutrale, director of Sucocitrico Cutrale, responsible for a third of Brazil's annual orange exports.
Frozen concentrated orange juice is now Brazil's third biggest agricultural export after soybeans and coffee. The concentrate and other orange products should generate $l.5 billion during the 1988-89 season, the industry says.
While most of Brazil's economy is in crisis, northern Sao Paulo state is booming. Signs of new wealth are everywhere in the orange industry towns of Araraquara, Matao and Bebedouro, where new cars sit outside modern homes in tree-lined neighborhoods.
Cutrale said oranges are more profitable per acre than any other crop. His factories process oranges from his own seven million trees and from the groves of 3,500 other planters.
"The crisis sure hasn't knocked on our door," he said in an interview in Araraquara, 450 miles northwest of Sao Paulo. His company is the exclusive producer of orange concentrate for Coca-Cola Co., owner of the U.S. Minute Maid juice brand.
A series of major frosts in Florida in the 1960's allowed Brazil to get a foothold in the industry, and it has built its orange empire from scratch in just over two decades.
With modern transportation and storage systems, Brazil's orange industry is now exporting concentrate to 42 countries on four continents.