Florida freeze damage estimates rise, citrus report questioned - The Packer

Florida freeze damage estimates rise, citrus report questioned

01/20/2011 08:29:53 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

VERO BEACH, Fla. — Total estimated damages to Florida’s crops from December freezes have increased to $370 million, a jump of about $100 million.

Although that estimate is mostly damage to vegetables — including transportation and lost sales at retail — citrus grower-shippers are questioning a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture survey that shows little damage to the state’s citrus groves.

Doug Ohlemeier

Grapefruit running on the packing line at Premier Citrus Packers Inc., Vero Beach, Fla., in late January. Florida officials have increased their estimates of damages caused by December freezes. And grower-shippers question a USDA report that shows the freezes caused little damage to the state’s citrus.

Through February, growers are expected to ultimately lose more than $150 million in cash receipts, increased from the $115 million authorities estimated in late December.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Tallahassee, estimates the freezes destroyed approximately 2.5 million cartons and cases of fruit and vegetables during December, and the state is expected to lose as many as 4 million additional cartons in February and March, said Sterling Ivey, a department a press secretary. The losses do not include processed citrus.

On Jan. 18, the USDA’s Agricultural Statistics Service reported the majority of citrus samples inspected in a special freeze damage survey were graded as “no damage apparent.”

About 97% of the state’s grapefruit and 70% of its midseason and late oranges showed no apparent damage.

Greg Nelson, president of DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, said some growing regions may have suffered minor losses but growers in many areas experienced more severe losses.

“The consensus of growers I have spoken with is that the USDA underestimated the extent of the actual damage that occurred,” he said Jan. 19. “That being said, there are still adequate amounts of good, wholesome fruit to ship, but nonetheless, there was a loss sustained by quite a few growers.”

Michel Sallin, president and chief executive officer of IMG Citrus Inc. and president of Florida Citrus Packers Inc., Lakeland, said tangerines — which weren’t surveyed — sustained 30%-50% losses.

But he said it’s always good to have a small production reduction and that buyers should expect strong volumes of fruit.

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