Six-day cold snap hits California orange growers

California citrus growers struggle to save crop

Citrus growers in a California valley endured freezing conditions for a sixth-consecutive night, threatening damage to the $1.5 billion crop, a growers association said Monday.

Last Friday, California Citrus Mutual reported that 80 percent of the mandarin orange crop and 75 percent of the navel crop had not been harvested in the San Joaquin Valley, the center of California's citrus production. The less cold-hardy mandarins will face more damage than navels.

Frozen tangerines are shown with misters running to avoid as much damage as possible during a cold snap in the San Joaquin Valley, Dec. 6, 2013, in Orange Cove, Calif.

After temperatures dropped below 32 degrees last Tuesday, citrus growers have been running water and wind machines to protect the trees, Citrus Mutual said. Exact damages are unclear at this point, but the group estimates that the overall cost to the industry for six nights of frost protection is $23 million.

The valley has seen worse, however.

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"The cold weather we are experiencing now is by no means comparable to the severe temperatures and damage incurred in 1990, or even 1998," said Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual. "The frost protection technology we have today has allowed producers to better prepare for freeze conditions and protect the crop from serious damage."

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