Deep freeze damages California citrus crop
The lemon crop, another pillar of the state's citrus industry, has mostly been harvested already she said.
California produces 85 percent of the nation's fresh citrus fruit year-round, grossing roughly $2 billion annually for its growers. The state's 285,000-acre (115,335-hectare) industry also is a major citrus supplier for China, Japan and Korea, Houtby said. Most of the nation's juice-producing oranges come from Florida.
Because citrus fruit is harvested in winter, farmers are accustomed to dealing with frost and have developed better methods of safeguarding their crop against cold over the years.
Growers kept wind machines and irrigation sprinklers running in their orchards overnight during much of the past week in order to circulate warmer air at ground level and keep frost at bay. Those efforts have cost farmers an estimated $28.8 million since last Tuesday, the Citrus Mutual said.
The earlier in the season a cold snap occurs, the greater is the potential for damage because the fruit is smaller and more of it remains to be picked. Fortunately this season, the fruit's sugar content has run higher than normal, providing extra internal resilience to the cold, Houtby said.
The Citrus Mutual also said there was enough freshly picked fruit on hand already to supply the market through the holiday season without driving up consumer prices.
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