(Feb. 6) The freeze fallout continues in California, with Bee Sweet Citrus Inc., Fowler, requesting an early withdrawal from its marketing agreement with Sunkist Growers Inc., Sherman Oaks, Calif.

James Sherwood, Bee Sweet’s vice president of operations, said the freeze was the catalyst for the request to withdraw from the Sunkist cooperative. He said Sunkist granted the request, effective Feb. 1.

Bee Sweet joined Sunkist last fall. In 2006, Bee Sweet packed and shipped 5.2 million cartons of citrus, Sherwood said.

While the freeze destroyed large portions of the California citrus crops, especially navel oranges and lemons, Sherwood said there are signs the freeze was not quite as bad as feared.

“It appears there is more good fruit out there than we had thought,” Sherwood said.

Sherwood on Feb. 5 said Bee Sweet had slowly resumed picking. He said the company wanted to be certain it did not rush to harvest and pack damaged fruit.

Sherwood said Norm Gatineau returned to the company’s marketing department Feb. 5. Gatineau had joined Booth Ranches LLC, Orange Cove, Calif., as sales manager last October. After the freeze, Booth Ranches laid off Gatineau and two other members of its marketing department.