Rains Don’t Damper Citrus Harvest

Taylor Hillman Citrus, Weather

citrus harvest
California received an uncommon amount of precipitation the first half of January, and more is expected. Citrus leaders said the rain hasn’t put a damper on harvest, and this season is looking good for the industry.

Heavy rains poured through the main citrus-growing areas of California in early January. California Citrus Mutual (CCM) Vice President Bob Blakely said the storms are a welcomed sight. “It’s all been for the good. We have been so dry for so long that we needed a winter like this,” he said. “It’s been very welcomed and there isn’t anything negative to say about the rain that is coming and the rain that is still to come.”

Citrus harvest is underway for some, and others are preparing to follow suit soon. Most would assume that heavy storms would cause problems during this time, but Blakely said the gaps between storms actually make it favorable. “The orchards dry out. It also allows the packing houses to get in and pick quite a bit of fruit, and they get fruit back in the shed that they can pack when they have rain forecast to come in again,” he said. “These days in between help. The orchards dry out a little bit, that moisture gets a chance to soak in, and everybody gets ready for another series of rain.”

December brought a few periods of freezing temperatures, but none of them stuck around very long. “We did have some cold nights in December, but not of the duration that causes any concerns, and we haven’t seen any damage from that,” Blakely said. Those temperatures have resurfaced somewhat, but again he said it doesn’t seem to be anything normal frost protection can’t handle. “The temperatures we are seeing now … we have good inversion and no problem with protection. It’s pretty typical for this time of year and isn’t causing any concern at this point,” Blakely said.

The citrus crop is a little smaller this year, but Blakely says that makes it more manageable. Couple that with cooperative weather and it looks like this season should be a positive one for California citrus growers. “The quality is outstanding. The fruit is eating really well right now. We are actually ahead of shipping from where we were at this time last year, and we’re about a third of the way through the crop,” Blakely said. “At this point, it’s shaping up to be a pretty good season. We would like to see the growers receiving better prices. They are a bit lower than we have seen for the last couple of years, but the fruit is moving out well.”

Blakely added that this time of year also brings a little good news to growers when it comes to prices. “Typically, this time of year we’ll see those prices firm up and moving higher so growers can be looking at some positive returns,” he said.