View Count: 162 |  Publish Date: January 17, 2013
California citrus crop weathers cold snap

Californias $2 billion citrus industry hasnt quite come out of the cold yet, but at this point it isnt anticipating significant frost damage.
Thats not to say that growers havent lost sleep.
For five consecutive nights, temperatures dipped below freezing in the San Joaquin Valley - where most of the citrus is grown in California, forcing farmers to spend $28 million in frost protection measures since last Thursday. So far, however, the majority of the crop remains healthy, and growers dont expect retail prices for oranges, lemons and other citrus fruit to increase, according to California Citrus Mutual, a nonprofit trade group in Exeter (Tulare County) that represents 2,200 growers.
California is the second-largest producer of citrus in the nation and the largest producer of fresh citrus fruit. Florida produces more, but 90 percent of its fruit goes to juice.
Navels may see some damage in unprotected areas, but at this point of the season the fruit has had time to mature on the tree, lending to a more frost tolerant crop across the board, according to the trade organization.
In protected areas, farmers have been using a combination of irrigation and wind machines to warm the trees during freezing conditions throughout the night. The water gives off heat and the fans force down warm air in the atmosphere to prevent frost from hurting the fruit. This, however, runs up water and electric bills - and keeps farmers up through the early hours of the morning to assess weather conditions and strategy.
Growers expect to have to monitor the situation over the next couple of days, but California Citrus Mutual staff are optimistic that a majority of (the crop) will go unscathed from this cold snap.
Stacy Finz is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @sfinz


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 California   citrus   crop   far   farmers   Frost   fruit   growers   this point   Citrus Mutual   largest producer 
Time: 6:25  |  News Code: 82959  |  Site: San Francisco Chronicle
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