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January freeze cut Florida's February orange crop 4 percent, officials say

ORLANDO — Florida citrus growers lost more than 4 percent of their orange crop and more than 3 percent of their grapefruit crop during last month's freeze, according to estimates released Tuesday.

The U.S. Agriculture Department forecast put Florida's orange crop in February at 129 million boxes, down from an estimate of 135 million boxes in January. Each box weighs about 90 pounds.

"We were lucky, considering it was the most sustained cold air mass that we know of in modern citrus history," said Doug Bournique, executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League. "I think everybody is breathing a sigh of relief that we still have what we have, because we still have a good crop going."

Half of the orange losses came from Valencia oranges, whose fruit size is expected to be smaller than usual.

The grapefruit estimate for February was 18.8 million boxes, down from the 19.5 million estimated in January.

If these estimates hold steady, Florida's orange crop will be 21 percent smaller than last season's crop and the grapefruit crop will be 13 percent smaller.

The freeze reduced Florida's tangerine crop almost 15 percent from 4.7 million boxes in January to an estimated 4 million boxes in February. If estimates remain unchanged, this season's tangerine crop will be 4 percent higher than last season's crop.

The bulk of the state's fruit is used to make orange juice.

January freeze cut Florida's February orange crop 4 percent, officials say 02/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 8:25pm]
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