Report: Freeze cost California citrus about $441M

EXETER, Calif. (AP) — A week of freezing temperatures in early December cost California’s $2 billion citrus industry about $441 million, an industry group estimated on Monday.

The group, California Citrus Mutual, said the damage was confined to the state’s Central Valley, where mandarin, navel and lemon crops were lost during seven consecutive nights of freezing temperatures in early December.

About 20 percent of the mandarin crop had already been harvested, but about 40 percent of the remaining oranges, or $150 million in revenue, were lost. The navel crop suffered a 30 percent loss and the dollar value of the damage hit $260 million, the group said. About $24 million in lemons also were lost.

The group estimated that citrus growers have spent $49 million to protect the crop through early January.

“It’s a significant loss and most of that’s going to go to the grower’s bottom line,” said Bob Blakely, director of industry relations for California Citrus Mutual.

The vast majority of California’s citrus crop is consumed as fruit, not juice, so the loss will not affect juice prices, Blakely said.

Consumers, however, are likely to see at least a slight increase in the price of oranges at the grocery store.

“As you move through the remainder of the season, the supplies are going to become shorter,” he said.

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