Citrus tally from California freeze comes in over $800 million

by Ron Sterk
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KANSAS CITY — Losses to the California citrus crop from a mid-January freeze initially have been estimated at more than $800 million by California Citrus Mutual (C.C.M.), a state growers’ association.

"There is no question in our mind that this was, is and will be a major disaster for California and our industry," said Philip LoBue, chairman of C.C.M. The group’s estimate was based on a comprehensive conference call with growers and packers in affected production areas. Citrus loss assessments were expected to increase as harvest progresses into spring.

The growers group estimated losses for navel oranges at 40 million cartons equal to $410 million, Valencia oranges at 20 million cartons and $184 million, lemons at 7.6 million cartons and $114 million, mandarin oranges at 15 million cartons or $67 million, and grapefruit at 4 million cartons or $28.5 million. Total revenue before the freeze was projected at $1,500 million by C.C.M.

Usually 15% to 20% of California’s oranges are exported, but "that will not occur this year," C.C.M. said.

"We have also learned that significant tree damage did occur in Imperial and Riverside counties," said Joel Nelsen, president of C.C.M.

Total losses, including other fruits as well as winter vegetables, were estimated at $1,100 million by the California Farm Bureau Federation. Unlike citrus, production of strawberries and vegetables was expected to recover quickly.

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