December 11, 2013

Cold Continues to Damage California’s Citrus--Mandarins More Than Navels

California Citrus Mutual reported TODAY that another cold night materialized as forecast last night, with temperatures dipping into the low 20s for long duration throughout citrus producing areas in the San Joaquin Valley.  After a week of chill, citrus growers evaluate potential crop damage to be $1.5 billion. 

Growers started wind machines around 8 p.m. last night in preparation for below freezing conditions.  A strong inversion layer coupled with frost protection measures helped raise temperatures in the grove as high as 4-5 degrees in some cases.  However, the cumulative impact of this freeze episode and the long duration of critical temperatures will result in some damage for both Mandarins and Navels.

Preliminary assessments by the County Agriculture Commissioners show damage; however the extent of damage cannot be determined until the freeze event concludes.  

Mandarins are expected to incur a greater degree of damage in comparison to the cold-tolerant Navel crop.  Early fruit maturity and high sugar content will provide some internal protection from frost damage, but the cumulative impact of cold temperatures over several nights is a concern.

Because of advanced weather forecasting systems, the industry has on hand sufficient amount of harvested fruit to supply the market through the holiday season without impacting consumer prices. 

Industry representatives and government officials are currently developing inspection protocols to ensure that damaged fruit does not enter the market place.   

Another cold night is in the forecast for tonight, Tuesday, December 10th, after which temperatures are expected to increase above critical temperatures.

California Citrus Mutual estimates that the industry has spent a total of $28.8 million since last Tuesday in frost protection measures.  At this point in the season, 12-15% of the Navel crop and 20% of the Mandarin crop have been harvested, leaving a significant percentage of the crop at risk of damage.