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Ag Beat: Orange Prices Rise With Freeze,Paramount Cites Supply Issue / More

Ffeeze damaged citrus heads to the juice market in Tulare County - photo courtesy Ventura Coastal

Freeze damaged citrus heads to the juice market in Tulare County – photo courtesy Ventura Coastal

Orange Prices Rise With Freeze,Paramount Cites Supply Issue

Reports are still coming in as to the extent of the damage to the citrus crop in the Central Valley from the December 4-10 freeze.
Growers note the cold hit early in the season, when about 75 percent of the state’s citrus crop was still on trees. Luckily fruit had a high sugar content for this early in the year that is a plus in preserving the fruit in cold.
Still,in some areas of Tulare County, all fruit in mandarin groves was described as “toast,” whereas in many navel orange groves, damage appeared more limited. The variability of crop loss reflected factors such as farm location, frost protection methods used, citrus variety and crop maturity.
“We put in tough nights for more than a week or so, with temperatures dropping below 25, and that’s true for growing areas all over the valley,” said citrus grower Greg Kirkpatrick of Exeter, whose family grows citron, Kaffir limes, lemons and tangelos.
“I’m sure there’s damage to our lemons because they are so frost-sensitive and there’s undoubtedly significant damage to lemons throughout the citrus belt,” Kirkpatrick said. “Fortunately, our Satsuma mandarins were harvested before the freeze. Our late varieties—Shasta and Gold Nugget—didn’t have enough sugar to withstand the freeze. We still need to assess the damage, but it may be quite a lot.”
Tulare County officials agreed that mandarins probably didn’t withstand the freeze very well.
“We don’t have official numbers yet, percent of damage or value of crop loss,” said Tom Tucker, Tulare County assistant agricultural commissioner. “We’re still out cutting in the groves. Unfortunately, damage is across the board. There are several fields, especially navels with high sugar, that will show a percentage of damage. In some cases, damage is relatively minor.”
He said other groves are showing almost 100 percent loss, especially mandarins.
Citrus has been grown in the San Joaquin Valley for more than 100 years. The on-farm value of California-grown citrus fruit in 2012-13 totaled $1.5 billion.
Paramount Points to Navel Damage
The states largest citrus grower Paramount Farms sent out a December 20th letter to growers from Zak Laffite VP Supply Chain that said prices are rising reflecting a reduced supply of fruit.While some reports are suggesting damage to navels was minor in most places the Paramount letter says “frost damage on navels has been more extensive than initially thought and finding unaffected fruit is becoming increasingly difficult.”
As for Clementines damage is more scattered than navels the letter says.
Damaged fruit is being sent to the juice market quickly “before it loses its value.”
A substantial amount of Paramount’s holdings are in Kern County that appears to have been harder hit than warmer areas to the north.One press account says” Early inspections of freeze-damaged citrus in California’s Kern County pegged mandarin orange and lemon losses at around 20%, and navel losses at less than 5%.

”Helping to reduce damage seen in past decades is improvement in technology in the filed from irrigation micro emitters to more powerful wind machines.
“In the past decade the industry has made significant advances in technology at the packinghouse,” says Joel Nelsen, Citrus Mutual Board Chairman and General Manager of Orange Cove-Sanger Citrus Association. “We can now see, literally, what damage exists internally in each piece of fruit. This technology has cost most packinghouses hundreds of thousands of dollars, which will reap dividends this year.”
Nevertheless, damage assessment can be an arduous task. Starting in the field, extreme and identifiable damaged fruit will be eliminated from the fresh market and directly shipped to the juice plant. For California citrus, juice plants are, by design, a salvage operation for lower quality fruit. “Sending fruit to the juice plant is certainly not ideal for growers from a revenue perspective,” says Nelsen. “Generally speaking, the return for juiced fruit is only sufficient to cover harvesting costs.”

30 to 50%?
CCM Director of Industry Relations Bob Blakely says he has heard estimates ranging from 30 to 50% damage to the Valley’s navel crop. Making it worse it has been warm since the freeze , speeding up up deterioration of the fruit he says. Blakely says Kern damage was likely worse than Tulare County since most of the fruit there comes off early and they have not invested in wind machine technology as much.
As to prices Blakely says he would not be surprised to see a 10% jump in prices noting that it is more expensive  to harvest and sort the fruit.
CCM says this was  the earliest severe freeze event in over 25 years for Valley citrus growers.
In Fresno County“the damage doesn’t seem widespread, but we are rejecting lots and bins that exceed the tolerance,” said Fred Rinder, Fresno County deputy agricultural commissioner. “Probably the most damage we’re seeing is in the cara cara navels and mandarins. Lemons are spotty and navels are hit and miss too.”
“We’ll be out there doing freeze (inspections) at least through late February,” Rinder said Dec. 19. “We haven’t even started our historically coldest period. We could easily have another freeze by the end of January that would throw everything caddywompus>” CFB contributed to this report

Tulare/Kings Milk Production Rises

Milk production in Tulare County rose 2.7% in October 2013 compared to October 2012.Kings County production rose 3.3% says CDFA. Meanwhile milk production in San Bernardino continues to fall – down 21% from a year ago.

Chinese Market for US Apples/Oranges Could Open Up

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2013 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today reported progress on a number of trade issues with China as a result of the 24th U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), which wrapped up today in Beijing.
The JCCT is the highest level bilateral forum for the resolution of trade and investment issues between the United States and China. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman co-chaired the JCCT with China’s Vice Premier Wang Yang.
“My discussions with Premier Li Keqiang and other Chinese leaders laid the groundwork for future cooperation related to our shared interests in food security, food safety, and sustainability, as well as the expansion of export opportunities for American farmers and ranchers,” Vilsack said.
At the JCCT, a number of high-priority issues for agriculture were discussed, including access for beef and horticultural products, the approval process for biotechnology products, and import suspensions for four states related to avian influenza.
On beef access, the United States and China reached consensus to continued dialogue, with the intention to restore market access by the middle of 2014.
On horticulture, the Secretary re-affirmed a pathway for re-opening China’s market for Washington apples and California citrus.

Reclamation Acquiring Lands for Endangered Species in Pixley National Wildlife Refuge

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Bureau of Reclamation today released environmental documents for the acquisition of lands for inclusion in the Pixley National Wildlife Refuge.
Reclamation is providing $649,250 from the Central Valley Project Conservation Program and the Habitat Restoration Program to help purchase 275 acres of uncultivated grassland and alkali scrub habitat on two parcels of unincorporated land adjacent to the Pixley NWR from voluntary sellers in Tulare County (the Lower Tule River and Pixley Irrigation District).
Upon completion of the acquisition, the parcels would immediately be included in the National Wildlife Refuge System as part of the Pixley NWR. The purchase would protect the federally listed endangered Tipton kangaroo rat, San Joaquin kit fox, and blunt-nosed leopard lizard, threatened vernal pool fairy shrimp, and other sensitive species.

Focus On Raisins At 2014 San Joaquin Valley Grape Symposium – Jan 8

Over the last 10 years, Fresno County farmers have reported increasing raisin moth populations in organic raisin vineyards. Addressing this concern, Kent Daane, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley, will update growers on the pest’s biology, management and damage at the San Joaquin Valley Grape Symposium Jan. 8 in Easton.
Daane and his research associates followed moth populations in organic and conventional fields to document this observed change and determine if there were any specific causes for increases in raisin moth densities. In a 2013 season study, UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center entomologists found that spring to early summer pheromone trap catches of raisin moths were prevalent across numerous vineyards, regardless of management practices. However, overall seasonal damage in 2013 was low.
“The primary difference between vineyard sites with or without raisin moth damage appeared to be well-timed and effective insecticide sprays,” Daane said. “One problem for organic sites may be the availability of insecticide materials that have long enough residual activity to control the larvae of adult moths entering the vineyard, and once the larvae are deep inside the grape cluster they are difficult to control.”
In addition to Daane’s report, the San Joaquin Valley Grape Symposium includes the following research updates:
Rootstocks for raisin production by Sonet Von Zyl, Fresno State University
Raisin production canopy management by Matthew Fidelibus, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis, based at the UC Kearney Ag REC in Parlier
Raisin grape breeding program by Craig Ledbetter, USDA Agricultural Research Service, based in Parlier
Economics of producing raisins, by Annette Levi, Fresno State University
Grapevine trunk diseases and grower survey
The symposium begins with registration at 7 a.m. and concludes following lunch at 1 p.m. at the C.P.D.E.S. Hall, 172 W. Jefferson Ave., Easton, Calif.
Registration is $15 in advance and includes lunch. Registration at the door is $20. To preregister, send the names of attendees and a check payable to UC Regents for $15 each to San Joaquin Valley Grape Symposium, 550 E. Shaw Ave., Suite 210-B, Fresno, CA 93710. To register with a credit card, fill out the online registration form at

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