FRESNO (KCBS) – The California citrus industry continues to assess damage to the crop following a freeze in early December, but consumers are already starting to feel the impact at supermarkets in the form of higher prices.
Six nights of freezing weather brought varied results across the Central Valley, with inconsistencies and micro-climates.
“We’re finding varying degrees of damage – from some groves that are a complete loss, to groves that have almost no damage at all,” said Bob Blakely with California Citrus Mutual.
Blakely said this freeze also came earlier, when trees were still growing and not as well prepared to withstand the cold.
He said because of the varying degrees of damage, this year’s crop still needs to be tested.
“Our machinery now is sensitive enough that it can detect the differences in each individual piece of fruit,” Blakely said. “It weighs each piece of fruit and if it doesn’t fall within a certain criteria for that size fruit, the machinery kicks it out.”
Some citrus packers estimate between 30 and 50 percent of the naval and mandarin orange crop was lost.
Blakely said his association has no firm numbers yet, but the impact is starting to show now that the harvest has slowed and there’s not as much fruit available.
“Prices have come up, a little bit this week,” he said. “And it was typical after one of these events, where the supply is limited, that you will tend to start seeing prices increase.”
California produces 85 percent of the nation’s fresh citrus supply year-round and it generates $1.5 million in economic activity statewide.
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