Weather Affects Citrus Crops

December 16, 2010

Cold weather affects us all, especially since all the extra time indoors in close quarters means we’re passing colds and flu back and forth with greater than average efficiency. Cold weather affects more than just people however, and, in fact, unseasonably cold weather in Florida – including ice storms – has caused citrus growers in the central part of the state to report crop damage.

Ray Royse, executive director of the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association in central Florida, said, “There was definitely some damage,” and added, “We did have some areas that had damage last night.” He continued, saying, “It’s too early to tell whether or not we’ll have significant fruit drop but certainly we’re going to have juice loss within some fruit in some areas.”

On Tuesday night, overnight temperatures in Highlands, the second-largest citrus-producing county in Florida, fell well below freezing. Florida growers are responsible for more than seventy-five percent for the U.S. orange crop, and roughly forty percent of the world’s orange juice supply.

Citrus is fairly fragile where temperature is concerned, and even four hours of temperatures lower than 28 degrees Fahrenheit can cause damage, which, according to Royce, is exactly what happened Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Royce elaborated, “I don’t think it’s to the level of being catastrophic tree killing cold anywhere, but we certainly are going to see some damage coming out of last night. It is not fruit frozen in every single grove. It is not small twig damage everywhere, but there’s definitely some blocks that are going to have damaged fruit.”

Highlands County Growers Association represents 185 members in the geographic center of Florida’s world-renowned citrus region.

Royce said his damage assessment, while still early, was based on contacting growers scattered across some 40,000 acres of orange groves across the region.

Most commercial citrus growers carry some kind of insurance on their crops, but even if their finances are relatively secure, it means the cost of orange juice may increase this year.