Valley freeze and drought to increase food prices

Monday citrus growers found out how much of an impact the deep freeze which gripped our area in December had on citrus crops.
February 3, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
Monday citrus growers found out how much of an impact the deep freeze which gripped our area in December had on citrus crops. The freeze ruined millions of dollars' worth of citrus and that is expected to drive up food prices in the coming in the months.

At the peak of citrus season Kings River Packing hires about a thousand people to harvest and sort fruit. But this year the family owned operation may have to scale back on hiring after getting hit by a double whammy. The statewide drought and the deep December citrus freeze have ruined a lot of fruit.

"Industry wise there's a lot of damage. Some people did get hit harder than others. The ultimate effect is going to be the jobs," ColbyCampbell with Kings River Packing said.

California Citrus Mutual estimates the freeze wiped out nearly a quarter of the state's two billion citrus industry. That is $ 441 million in lost mandarin, navel oranges and lemons.

"There are areas in Madera County and Kern County where they have lost a lot over half their profit. There are some growers who have lost all their fruit. It's really sad," Jesse Silva with Kings River Packing said.

The damaged fruit cut down the supply, which in turn pushes up orange prices.

"As an industry we are getting higher prices for our product but in the same sense we are having to recoup a lot of that cost and what is salvageable," Silva said.

Citrus isn't the only crop expected to get pricier. With the ongoing drought farmers are actually choosing to leave land fallowed.

"Consumers can expect to see a shortage of crops in some vegetables and fruit crops that they would normally see in the grocery stores. Such as broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, things like that," Mike Wade with the California Farm Water Coalition said.

Other crops that will be hit hardest by the drought in the Central Valley are expected to be melon, onions and cotton. Ag experts say that will create a ripple effect with fewer jobs for farm workers and truck drivers


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