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County freeze damage estimated at $114.7 million Avocados suffer $37.7M loss


Last updated 4/19/2007 at Noon

The agricultural commissioner’s disaster report on the losses due to the January freeze indicate an estimated crop value loss of $114,744,561 million.

The damage included an estimated $37,472,387 to avocado crops, the largest single crop damage total. Bedding plants suffered the second-highest loss total at an estimated $23,561,279, while ornamental shrubs and trees took an estimated loss of $16,513,680. Cut flowers and foliage, lemons, and herbs also exceeded $5 million in damage.

“I think the overall damage number was higher than we thought,” said San Diego County Farm Bureau executive director Eric Larson, “but in retrospect, there are so many small growers in this county.”

The most recent census indicated a total of 5,255 farms in San Diego County. The most recent crop report indicated a total of 273,176 acres in crop production.

The disaster report cites a total of 48,374 acres damaged by the freeze, including 26,327 acres of avocados and an additional 176 acres of damage to nursery fruit trees, including avocados. “It’s just unfortunate that avocados suffered the greatest amount of damage, but when you look at the numbers avocados have the greatest amount of acres,” Larson said.

Avocados have a low wind tolerance and the stem that connects the fruit to the tree is susceptible to frost. Avocados can survive cold down to about 24 degrees for short periods of time, but the length of the frost as well as the low temperatures significantly impacted the fruit and trees.

“That damage shadow is going to last for years,” Larson said. “A lot of those growers are going to have to stump their trees.”

If trees fail to bud, the crop for future years will also be affected. “The damage assessment isn’t over yet. There’s still additional damage to measure as time goes on,” Larson said.

Citrus trees are more cold-tolerant than are avocados, in part because citrus fruit is protected by the sugar in it. Because the sugar provides protection, lemons incurred the most significant damage among citrus. In terms of acreage, Valencia oranges had the greatest loss following avocados, with 5,515 acres of Valencias impacted. The lemon acreage damaged totaled 3,400 acres. Cut flowers and foliage suffered 3,140 acres of damage, ornamental trees and shrubs saw 2,920 acres damaged, and 2,405 acres of grapefruit incurred frost damage.

Between January 13 and January 24 reported temperatures reached as low as 14 degrees in Valley Center, 16 degrees in Bonsall, and 18 degrees in De Luz.

Annual crop reports provided five-year annual average yields and annual average prices. Avocados had an average yield of 3.25 tons per acre and an average price of $2,048 per ton. Bedding plants had a variable yield with an average price of $221,295 per acre. Lemons had an average yield of 17.37 tons per acre and an average price of $282 per ton, while strawberries – which suffered an estimated $4,460,263 in damage from 679 affected acres – had an average yield of 34.10 tons per acre at an average price of $1,132 per ton.

San Diego County sustained approximately ten percent of the total damage in the state. “That’s a pretty significant amount of damage,” Larson said.


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