Packing on hold to assess California citrus damage
12/11/2013 06:03:00 PM
As California citrus growers endured a week and counting of freezing overnight temperatures, the industry put a 48-hour hold on packing Dec. 10 to give authorities more time to inspect for damaged fruit at 81 facilities.
The move came out of meetings with San Joaquin Valley growers, industry representatives and regulators aimed in part at keeping damaged mandarin and navel oranges off the fresh market.
The scope of losses is still being determined but will range from major to manageable depending on location and variety, according to Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.
Enough harvested fruit was on hand to supply the market through the holiday season without affectng consumer prices, the trade group reported. The 48-hour hold wasn’t expected to impede movement, though it was costly for packers.
“We’re just going to wait to get through this event, then pick up the pieces and decide where we’re going to go from here,” Doug Carman, vice president of farming for Los Angeles-based Paramount Citrus, which markets mandarins under the Wonderful Halos label, said Dec. 11. “We’re fighting the frost and developing a game plan but don’t have one in place yet. The frost isn’t over yet.”
Temperatures reached the low 20s in parts of the valley during the Dec. 4-10 cold spell. For Dec. 11-12 the National Weather Service forecast lows of 31 and 32 degrees respectively in Reedley with a slight warming trend to follow.
State and county inspectors are checking groves as well as packinghouses. Field inspections are planned for more than 200,000 acres in Fresno, Kern and Tulare counties. The aim is to eliminate most damaged fruit before harvesting.
“Although temperatures are now on the upswing, the compound effect of a seven-day freeze event has made the fruit more susceptible to damage at higher temperature points,” Citrus Mutual president Joel Nelsen said in a news releas