Growing wildfires in Southern California destroy crops in Ventura County

Key Points
  • Wildfires in Southern California have caused crop damage, the loss of farm structures and business interruptions.
  • The agribusiness losses are in the Ventura County area, known for its citrus and avocado production.
  • The so-called Thomas Fire in Ventura County has scorched more than 65,000 acres and destroyed more than 150 structures, including farmworker housing.
A firefighter battles a wildfire as it burns along a hillside near homes in Santa Paula, California, on December 5, 2017.
Ringo Chiu | AFP | Getty Images

Out-of-control wildfires burning in Southern California's Ventura County, an area known for its citrus and avocado production, have caused damage to crops, the loss of farmworker housing and business interruptions.

Ventura County farmer Craig Underwood told CNBC his properties haven't suffered any losses from the fires but he's aware of some growers losing avocados. Also, he knows several people who have lost their homes, including an employee.

The so-called Thomas Fire led Santa Paula-based lemon grower Limoneira to shut down its headquarters Tuesday. The company suffered some structure losses in the blaze but there were no reports of injuries.

Overall, there were five major fires burning in Southern California, including a fast-moving blaze Wednesday morning that destroyed multimillion-dollar homes in L.A.'s exclusive Bel Air community. High fire risk is expected to continue in L.A. and Ventura counties through at least Friday due to strong winds.

As of Wednesday morning, Ventura County's Thomas Fire had scorched more than 65,000 acres and destroyed at least 150 structures. About 50,000 people are under mandatory evacuation due to that fire.

"So far, we don't have any crop losses," Alyssa Houtby, director of government affairs for the California Citrus Mutual said in an email. The citrus grower group represents about 75 percent of the state's citrus production.

However, Houtby said Limoneira's farmworker housing was destroyed in the wildfire. She added, "Several growers have been evacuated from their homes and others are preparing for evacuation notice."

Limoneira's senior vice president and COO, Alex Teague, confirmed to the Packer, a trade publication, that the blaze destroyed a dozen of the company's buildings and also led to a brief power outage at the packinghouse.

CNBC reached out to Limoneira for comment.

Limoneira's stock price was down about 5 percent on Tuesday and off about 1 percent in midday trading Wednesday.

Another Santa Paula-based agribusiness, avocado marketer Calavo Growers, was down about 2 percent in trading Wednesday after losing more than 1.5 percent on Tuesday.

It was unclear Wednesday if Calavo suffered any damage to its groves or buildings. CNBC left a message for Calavo but no one was immediately available for comment.