Florida citrus estimates reflect freeze damage - The Packer

Florida citrus estimates reflect freeze damage

02/09/2010 01:01:49 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

A month after freezes swept through Florida fruit and vegetable production areas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave a positive prognosis to grapefruit and orange crops, although volumes are lower than earlier estimates.

File photo

Florida citrus estimates dropped in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's monthly report Feb. 9, but the change in projected volumes are not significant, grower-shippers said.

A Feb. 9 monthly citrus production report from the USDA shows lower orange, grapefruit and tangerine movement. Tangerines and grapefruit each lost 700,000 equivalent boxes from January to February with honey tangerines sustaining a 26% loss and grapefruit down 3.6% nearly a month after the freeze.

Even with the sharp decline in tangerines, however, the USDA forecasts tangerine production to be 4% higher than last season.

The USDA also lowered projected volume of Florida mid-season and valencia oranges by 6 million cartons.

In late January, Florida Agricultural Statistics Service surveyors assessed fruit and leaf damage in unharvested groves, cutting and scoring fruit for damages.

“Over 50% of the fruit that we checked had no apparent damage,” said Jeff Geuder, the Orlando-based agriculture statistics’ agency director. “But some had damage all the way into the center cut.”

In freeze-damaged groves, the agency said it assumed remaining fruit would increasingly dry out and exhibit damage that progresses towards the center of the fruit.

The agency plans to conduct additional assessments Feb. 15-16 and in early March.

Candi Erick, the agency’s administrator, said the abnormal cold, which hit the state Jan. 3-12, slowed sizing and growth and caused smaller sizes in honey tangerines, with some fruit dropping from trees.

“Last year we saw the same thing happen after the cold weather,” she said. “The growth rate really slowed and fruit did not continue to size as expected.”

 Al Finch, vice president of sales and marketing for Diversified Citrus Marketing, Lake Hamilton, Fla., the marketing arm of the Dundee Citrus Growers Association, said the freeze damaged its honey tangerines and cut volume.

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