Valley citrus industry suffers during port slowdown

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Many oranges ready for harvest aren't being picked in Central Valley orchards because they can't be shipped. (KFSN)

Many oranges ready for harvest aren't being picked in Central Valley orchards because they can't be shipped. With the warm weather, some rapidly maturing fruit has even started to drop on the ground. The fruit was supposed to be shipped off to international markets like Australia and Japan.

Joe LoBue of LoBue Citrus in Exeter said, "Every order missed is an order you don't get back." Lobue said shipment containers have been sitting in Oakland and Long Beach because of the port delays. "I would say we're probably going to lose at least 20 to 25 percent of our export at least and that's if it gets a little better." At this time of year, LoBue Citrus normally exports as much as 70 percent of its crop.

California's citrus industry - worth $2.4 billion - is taking a big hit. Dusty Ference of California Citrus Mutual said, "Some containers are having to come back out of the ports because they sat so long they can't be shipped. In some cases they're being trucked clear back to the Central Valley." In those instances companies were left with rotten fruit.

The port uncertainty has the citrus industry scrambling. Ference explained, "We've got fruit that we grow specifically for export each season. That fruit is now being sold on the domestic market."

Some citrus shipments have reached their overseas destinations but only after lengthy delays. Lobue said, "You've got fruit that is normally on the water 15-21 days anyway and you're adding an additional 10 days or more on top of that so now you've got month old fruit going everywhere."

The backups at 29 West Coast ports began in October. A line of ships has been anchored outside both the Long Beach and Oakland ports.

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central valleyagricultureag watchport of long beach
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