Rain could pose threat to Central Valley orange crops

FRESNO, Calif.

Nilmeie said if rain droplets stayed on his oranges and the temperatures dropped it could have led to rind staining and markings that would make fruit unfit for the market.

"If it rained last night and it froze this morning that would've been a problem but I think most of the groves and most of the water dried off so I don't think the ice markings are going to be quite as bad as they first thought," Nilmeier said.

Members of the California Citrus Mutual, a non-profit citrus growers association, have been watching the temperatures closely the past few nights. Their members will take a close look at the fruits Sunday morning to assess any damage, hoping not too many oranges were damaged by the freeze.

"We in California supply 85 percent of the nation's fresh orange crop so what that means is that you could lose a tremendous amount of fresh oranges for store shelves," President Joel Nelsen of California Citrus Mutual said.

That could potentially drive prices up in stores. So far the damage to citrus crops around the state is minimal. Cuties and mandarins have been the most vulnerable to the cold. And until the temperatures rise growers like Nilmeir will keep doing what they need to protect their precious crops from the cold.

"We'll see what happens tonight, but they're saying tomorrow night is going to be even colder than tonight. So that's the one that kind of scares us," Nilmeier said.

California Citrus Mutual said they could have a preliminary crop damage assessment as early as 7:30 a.m. Sunday. And county assessors will begin their assessments as early as Monday.

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