Freeze hits Florida citrus crop
Miami, January 11, 2010
Freezing overnight temperatures inflicted varying damage on the fruit in Florida's northern and central citrus growing regions, although the losses did not appear to be catastrophic, producers said on Monday.
The Sunshine State is the country's biggest producer of oranges.
"I would say that there is probably widespread light damage and some considerable to heavy fruit damage," Ray Royce, executive director of the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association in central Florida, told Reuters. Highlands County is the second largest citrus producing county in Florida.
Florida, whose $9.3 billion citrus industry produces more than three-quarters of the US orange crop and accounts for about 40 percent of the world's orange juice supply, was hit over the past week by successive nights of unusually low freezing temperatures.
Overnight Sunday had seen the harshest freeze yet, and cumulatively, this had taken a toll on the citrus crop, Royce and other growers said.
They said many growing areas had remained for several hours below the key 28 Fahrenheit (minus 2 Celsius) level.
Typically, citrus crops get damaged if temperatures fall to 28 F or below for four or more hours.
"What I'm seeing here is 30 percent penetration of ice in the fruit," John Arnold, owner of the Showcase of Citrus in south Lake County, in the state's northern growing region, told Reuters.
"But it is not catastrophic, we still have citrus that can be picked," Arnold said.
Royce said many growers had been "cutting ice" this morning as they sliced through fruit to check for damage.
Freeze-damaged fruit cannot be marketed as fresh fruit and also loses some of its juice. "There is no doubt we will see juice reduction in a lot of fruit, to what extent I don't know," Royce said.
But, he added: "In the great overall scheme of things, we are not at some catastrophic level". - Reuters