Oranges at packinghouse

Sorting oranges at a packinghouse in Central California.

California citrus packers asked to hold fruit 48 hours

San Joaquin Valley county ag commissioners ask for 48-hour waiting period on packing citrus to give inspectors time to survey for freeze damage.    

Several citrus producing counties in California’s San Joaquin Valley are asking citrus packinghouses to voluntarily wait 48 hours before packing fruit harvested on or after Dec. 11 in order to better determine the extent of freeze damage.

Agricultural commissioners within Kern, Tulare and Fresno counties asking packers to give the fruit time to warm up and better display freeze damage before commencing with packing operations.

Fruit harvested prior to Dec. 11 is not subject to the notices in Kern, Tulare and Fresno counties.

“Basically we’re trying to buy a little time with this,” said Les Wright, agriculture commissioner for Fresno County.

Packing sheds may do their own sampling prior to asking for an official sample by county ag department staff, according to press statements by the three counties. Ag officials will make every effort to accommodate packing schedules.

Fruit packed and shipped prior to having an official sample taken at the time of packing are subject to a notice of violation, according to statements from the three counties.

According to Wright, citrus packing operations tend to have equipment available to sort the freeze-damaged fruit, but the fruit needs some time to better reveal freeze damage.

California Citrus Mutual estimates that nearly $30 million has been spent by the citrus industry in the San Joaquin Valley since Dec. 3 on frost protection measures. As of Dec. 10, 12 percen to 15 percent of the Navel and 20 percent of the Mandarin crops have been harvested, according to CCM.

A hard freeze warning issued by the National Weather Service remains in effect for the San Joaquin Valley through Thursday morning, meaning temperatures below 28 degrees for a significant amount of time are still likely.

Citrus industry officials with questions are urged to contact their local ag commissioner for more information. In Kern County, call (661) 868-6300; in Tulare County call (559) 684-3350; and in Fresno County call (559) 600-7510 for more information on inspections and uniformity standards.

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