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Citrus freeze loss at least $800 million

The dollar loss to the California citrus industry from the devastating mid-January artic freeze totals at least $800 million, according to California Citrus Mutual.

However, that is sure to increase for citrus growers in San Diego, Riverside, Imperial, Ventura, Kern, Tulare, Fresno and Madera counties.

“There is no question in our mind,” reports CCM board chair Philip LoBue, “that this was, is and will be a major disaster for California and our industry.”

California Citrus Mutual expects the dollar loss numbers for navel oranges, lemons and mandarin variety fruit will be adjusted upward in early spring after all product has been accounted for.

Also in early spring the industry will begin harvesting Valencia oranges and while the damage appears to be significant at this time only the harvesting results will determine the final numbers. A slightly damaged Valencia orange has the ability to heal itself. That fruit experiencing temperatures in the low 20’s for 10 hours or longer is no doubt lost.

“Today our industry has pockets of optimism in the form of quality fruit for the fresh market. They are isolated but they are there. We will harvest over the next several weeks, utilize our consumer protection program and complete the season early, a season that normally runs into June;” he concludes.

“We have also learned that significant tree damage did occur in Imperial and Riverside counties,” reports CCM President Joel Nelsen. Lemon industry members also expect the late 07 crop to be adversely affected but the extent of that damage is unavailable. New buds were destroyed thus eliminating potential fruit for harvest in late summer and early fall.

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