California citrus damage assessment continues

01/02/2014 03:14:00 PM
Mike Hornick

California citrus shippers continue to sift good fruit from bad in the aftermath of early December freezes, but some expect sharp reductions in fruit available for the fresh market.

“Each shipper is coming up with their own estimates, but some are seeing 30% to 50% losses,” Alyssa Houtby, director of public affairs at Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, said Jan. 2. “It’s going to take a couple months before we start to see the full extent of the damage.”

“There’s significant damage,” said Randy Jacobson, sales manager at Orange Cove-based Cecelia Packing Corp. “But how much it’s going to end up being, I don’t think anybody really knows. Some areas were hit worse than others.”

The cold wave gripped the San Joaquin Valley Dec. 4-10.

“We’re expecting more damage in the mandarins than the navels,” Houtby said. “Lemons seem to have escaped without much damage.”

State inspectors continue to check loads in packinghouses where fruit is subject to holds up to 48 hours after harvest, while growers and packers evaluate fruit in the field before picking.

“They’re doing the best they can to make sure none of that damaged fruit makes it to the fresh market,” Houtby said. “At this point we’re able to salvage pretty much all of it that can’t go into fresh for juice.”

Prices on some navel orange sizes edged up after the freeze. Size 113 navel shippers first grade, for example, ran mostly $15.80 to $17.90 Dec. 30 for 7/10 bushel cartons, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That was up from $13.80 to $14.90 on Dec. 2. Year-ago prices for 113s were about $7.75.

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