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California Citrus Growers X-Raying Fruit To Assess Freeze Damage To Crop

EXETER, Tulare County (KCBS) – The recent stretch of cold weather days in Northern California could have long-term effects on state’s citrus industry and growers are using a high-tech way of assessing the damage.

Field inspections in the Central Valley were underway Thursday and Joel Nelson, President of California Citrus Mutual, said it is likely some growers lost the majority of their fruit, after seven straight nights of low overnight temperatures.

“Unfortunately, we were very vulnerable, with about 85 percent of the crop on the trees,” he said.

Nelson said it takes time for the fruit to actually show the interior decay, so after a series of meetings with industry representatives, growers and regulatory personnel, they have collectively decided to wait two days to pack fruit harvested after December 11.

“What we have now is better technology in the packinghouses that can actually identify a problem piece of fruit by scanning it,” said Nelson. “It’s kind of like an x-ray machine. So we do a better job of separating bad fruit from good fruit.”

State and county workers are going through the arduous task of sifting through over 200,000 acres, first picking out extreme and identifiable damaged fruit and shipping those directly to the juice plant. For California citrus, juice plants are seen as a salvageable operation for lower quality fruit.

Nelson said the wait period and inspection process won’t affect supplies at markets and grocery stores, as packinghouses estimate enough fruit was harvested prior to the freeze in anticipation of the cold snap, and to sustain market supply through the holidays.

California Citrus Mutual said frost protection costs for the seven days totaled an estimated $32.4 million.

California produces 85 percent of the nation’s fresh citrus supply year-round.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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