Florida citrus escapes worst, freeze worries remain

MIAMI, (Reuters) – Florida’s citrus crop again escaped widespread, catastrophic damage from overnight freezing temperatures, but some fruit was frozen, especially in northern areas of the state, the main growers group said on Sunday.

Growers in the Sunshine State, which produces more than three-quarters of the U.S. orange crop and accounts for about 40 percent of the world’s orange juice supply, were preparing to endure another night of freezing weather on Sunday.

The state’s $9.3 billion citrus industry was spared severe damage during several nights of frigid temperatures last week caused by pockets of arctic air pushing south and giving Florida some of its coldest weather in more than a decade.

“There are no reports of catastrophic damage at this point,” Andrew Meadows, spokesman for growers group Florida Citrus Mutual told Reuters.

But he said that in some northern areas of the state overnight, temperatures had remained for hours below the key 28 Fahrenheit (minus 2 Celsius) level. Typically, citrus crops get damaged if temperatures fall to 28 F or below for four hours or longer.

“It’s a real mixed bag at this point,” Meadows added, saying it was still too early to give an accurate estimate of overall damage to the current crop.