Human Geography Commodity Chain of Orange Juice

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Samantha Dickman


Human Geography

Commodity Chain of Orange Juice


Orange Juice is a popular juice people drink in the mornings. It is available almost everywhere you go in the US. You can even order a glass of OJ in a drive thru at McDonalds! Because orange juice is so popular I wanted to find out more about it. To me orange juice is a treat; I only drink it when I am at home eating breakfast with my family. The kind of OJ my family buys is Minute Maid, so it was only right for me to find out exactly where the juice we drink comes from! In the sections following you will find out each aspect of the commodity chain of orange juice. This includes raw materials, workers needed, transportation, and packaging.

Commodity Profile

The commodity chain of orange juice starts back in 1493 because of diffusion. At this time citrus traveled with Columbus to the island of Hispaniola, it was then brought to Florida by Ponce de Leon.1 If it wasn’t for these explorers bringing over pieces of their culture to the United States, we may have never had orange juice! By 1579, orange trees were growing in St. Augustine, the oldest European settlement in the United States.2 As the transportation increased to other parts of the countries due to the railroads expanding, trains supplied citrus to other parts of the nation. I am not going to include this portion of the commodity chain in my map because the oranges used today do not still come from Hispaniola.

Many people are needed to get the oranges to the stores. Over 90,000 people work directly or indirectly in Florida’s citrus industry.3 About 1/9th of these are growers, others care for and pick fruit and Horticulturists help growers manage water resources, diseases and pests. A grove worker can pick more than 7,000 pounds of fruit per day.4 This is known because they are paid by the weight they pick. After the grove workers there are the Truck drivers, and the people who work in the packing and processing plants. The citrus industry, and the jobs and businesses that support it, bring more than $9 billion to Florida each year.5 In the world, Brazil produces 17,136,000 Metric Tons of oranges, followed by us in the USA with 11,291,000 Metric Tons; the third top orange producing country is Mexico with 3,500,000 Metric Tons of oranges per year.6

Oranges must ripen on the tree, when they are ready for harvest a grove manager samples a group of oranges. He chooses a block of trees to tests, these tests are to see if the oranges meet the standards to be sold as 100% Florida Orange Juice.7 If they pass and are ready for harvest, crews of harvesters pick the fruit by hand. They use wooden ladders and canvas pick sacks when the fruit is harvested. There are a couple machines that harvest the oranges. One machine is called “the trunk shaker” it does what it says and shakes the trunk of a tree.8 While the machine is shaking the tree all the oranges fall and are caught in something called a “catch frame.”9 There is no cost advantage to using the machines, so most of the oranges are harvested by hand. In Florida, almost 98% of all oranges are harvested by hand.10 After being picked, the fruit is dumped into plastic tubs. A truck comes through the grove, transfers the oranges from the tubs to its “goat” a thing that hauls the oranges, and then brings it to a tractor-trailer. This truck-tractor then hauls the trailer to the processing plant

More than half of the orange crop is processed into juice, either frozen concentrate, refrigerated from concentrate, or refrigerated not-from-concentrate.11 At the processing plant the concentrate is blended from tanks to meet the specifications of the customer and meet USDA requirements. The trailer of oranges is then unloaded onto a conveyor belt. From this belt, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) takes a representative sample to test it for juice content and maturity, and to certify the pounds solids per box (the unit that growers' payment is based upon).12 The fruit is washed and graded for bad or damaged fruit. It is then separated by size and sent to the juice extractors. Inside the extractors, before juicing, the peel is pricked to extract the oils found in the peel, and then the juice is extracted.13 This new concentrate is either put into 55-gallon drums and shipped in a refrigerated truck, or is loaded onto a special food-grade insulated tanker truck and delivered to a packaging plant. It is then packaged to be sold where we buy it to consume.

In my case I bought my orange juice from Super Wal-Mart in Lake Geneva, WI. I called the Wal-Mart to find out where they buy the Minute Maid that I buy. I spoke with the manager Frank on Monday, March 7th around 5pm. Frank asked me to call back in the morning and he would give me more information about the distribution center, but he did give me some information before hanging up. He told me all Wal-Mart products are shipped from Tomah, WI. They order all their products from this distribution center in Tomah and within a few days they receive their shipment.14 The next day when I called back Frank was not there, so I spoke with a Amanda. Amanda told me she was unable to give me more information about the distribution center in Tomah, all she could tell me was that was where everything was purchased.15 My next step in trying to find out the geography of Minute Maid orange juice was to contact the Minute Maid Corporation. In an email correspondence I was able to reach Joynetta from Industry and Consumer Affairs. The following is what she was able to tell me:

Thank you for contacting our website, Ms. Dickman.We appreciate your interest in Minute Maid.

Unfortunately, our Company considers the information you requested to be proprietary.

We hope that you will understand.

We can make you aware of the following, however:

Our oranges come from Florida and Brazil. Some other products use fruits from Costa Rica.Our company supplements our fruits with other countries' crops from around thefor different reasons.Weather is unpredictable.We cannot foresee floods or droughts and, thus, we cannot count on American grown crops 100%.We also like to use different varieties of fruits, such as oranges and apples that may not grow well in our climate.All fruits must be grown with pesticides approved by our government. We monitor very closely what comes into our.This is done at the port of entrance on a national and local level.Our company also monitors the use and misuse of pesticides by our suppliers.Other countries have to adhere to our regulations if they want us to buy their product.16

Because I was unable to find out much more than the distribution center in Tomah my map only shows the connection from Florida to Tomah to Lake Geneva (see map).


Doing this research I have realized how much work goes into the production of one class of orange juice. I never knew oranges were not native to Florida, or that Christopher Columbus was partly responsible for its journey to America! I never would have thought that orange juice is a prime example of diffusion. I always thought of oranges as an American fruit, it is funny to know that we adopted oranges into our culture centuries ago.

The role of transportation is huge for orange juice. Not only was transportation needed to bring oranges to America, we also use it to get oranges around the country. Without the truck drivers who carry fresh oranges to processing plants, then to packaging plants, then to distributors and finally retail stores, we would not have our glass of OJ every morning!


Some other fascinating information I found about oranges is the environmental impacts they have on Florida. From growing one acre of citrus, 16.7 tons of oxygen is produced every year. So this means Florida’s 800,000 acres of citrus produce more than 13 MILLION tons of oxygen each year.17 I bet you never thought of that before!! Something else I thought was interesting is the numbers of juice production from Florida. From 2001-02, 1,549,751,183 gallons of juice was produced, just in Florida!18 Closer to home, I found similar information about Milwaukee. After 52 weeks, ending 06/05/04, people in Milwaukee consumed around 6,440,000 gallons!19 Coming back to my company I studied, Minute Maid. Minute Maid has about one-third of the total frozen sales and 25% of refrigerated, with $726 million in total sales per year!20 Talk about a good market to be in! I wouldn’t mind making that much a year!

So not only did I learn about the history of orange juice, how to make it and what is required to make one glass of orange juice, I also learned some interesting facts about oranges. It is too bad that I was unable to find exactly where Minute Maid transports the orange juice. I tried hard to find the commodity chain, researching from both ends of the chain. I think if I were to have done this paper about ten years ago the company’s would have been more willing to give me information. But because of our society today, suing everyone possible, the company’s have to be careful what information gets out. For all the people I talked to knew, I could have been a terrorist trying to find a truck filled with oranges so I could contaminate it! Overall I learned a lot about orange juice, and it will be much more special to me the next time I drink it!


  1. N/A. Florida Citrus: Florida AG. In the Classroom Viewed Feb. 26th, 2005

  2. Ibid.
  3. Hodges, Alan., Philippakos, Effie., Mulkey, David., Spreen, Tom. And Muraro, Ron. Economic Impact of Florida's Citrus Industry, 1999-2000 Viewed 3-1-05

  4. Ibid

  5. Florida Citrus: Florida AG. In the Classroom

  6. Ibid

  7. James Binkley, James Eales, Mark Jekanowski, Ryan DooleyCompetitive behavior of national brands: The case of orange juice.” Agribusiness.York: Winter 2001.Vol.17,.;.

  8. Townsend, Chet. 1996 The Story of Florida Orange Juice-From the Grove to Your Glass Viewed Feb. 26th 2005

  9. Ibid

  10. Ibid

  11. Binkley, James. Eales, James. Jekanowski, Mark. Dooley, Ryan. Competitive Behavior of National Brands: The Case of Orange Juice. Agribusiness.York: Winter 2001.Vol.17,Iss.;.

  12. Ibid

  13. Townsend, Chet

  14. Telephone Correspondence with Frank and Amanda From Super Wal-Mart in Lake Geneva. March 7th around 5pm and March 8th around 2 pm, 2005.

  15. Ibid

  16. Email correspondence with Minute Maid Corporation. Joynetta from Industry and Consumer Affairs. March 4th, 2005

  17. Florida Citrus: Florida AG. In the Classroom

  18. Economic Impact of Florida's Citrus Industry

  19. Ibid

  20. Competitive Behavior of National Brands: The Case of Orange Juice

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