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Sub-Freezing Temperatures Hit Florida Citrus

Contact: Andrew Meadows at (863) 682-1111 or (cell)(863) 944-4924
For Immediate Release:

LAKELAND, Fla. (January 11, 2010) – Florida’s $9 billion citrus crop was hit by sub-freezing temperatures that swept across the state early Monday morning, however the industry’s largest trade organization said it was still assessing damage.

“The reports we are getting tell us there is frozen fruit as well as twig and leaf damage out there now it may be days or weeks until we figure out whether there is long-term tree damage,” said Michael W. Sparks, executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. “All of the information is anecdotal at this point and varies literally from grove to grove so we won’t be able to come out with a definitive answer until the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) accounts for the cold snap in the monthly crop forecast, probably in February.”

“Complicating the issue is the sheer number of cold days we had in a row. I can’t remember anything like it.”
Mutual said the North (Lake County) and West side of the citrus belt along Pasco, East Hillsborough, Western Polk, Desoto, Hardee and Hendry received the brunt of cold temperatures Monday morning. The Central region and Indian River region appeared to come through in decent shape but there could be isolated or low lying areas where damage occurred.

For fruit damage to set in temperatures must reach 28 degrees for four hours or more. Colder temperatures for longer periods of time can cause tree damage.

In December, the USDA said Florida will produce a 135 million box orange crop. The USDA makes its initial forecast in October and then revises it monthly until the end of the season in July.

“Although production may be affected by this recent string of cold temperatures we still have ample inventories of orange juice and fully expect to continue to produce the quality crop our state is known for,” Sparks said. “Florida growers are a resilient bunch and I know we will come through this. This is not our first time to the rodeo and it won’t be our last.”

The Florida citrus industry creates a $9 billion annual economic impact, employing nearly 76,000 people, and covering about 570,000 acres. Founded in 1948 and currently representing nearly 8,000 grower members, Florida Citrus Mutual is the state’s largest citrus grower organization. For more information, visit www.flcitrusmutual.com.