Monday, January 11, 2010

Florida Freeze Affects Crops, But How Much?

Freezing nights over most of Florida this weekend and the first snow since 1996 (the first in Orlando since 1977) damaged crops that don’t respond well to freezing. The coldest period occurred in the last four hours, with freezing temperatures extending as far south as Tampa. The weather should warm up quickly now that the sun is up, and the forecast for this week says that the cold snap will be easing. The overnight freeze damaged citrus fruit especially in the inland areas north and west of Orlando. This morning, the industry is checking to see the extent of the damage.

There is a checklist of questions: How cold did it get? Where did the temperature stay at 27°F or below for four straight hours? How far does the ice extend into the fruit? How much of the crop was damaged? How many trees were damaged? The weather observations and early reports suggest that there is extensive damage to citrus fruit in two or three counties, but so far, little indication of damage to trees.

Analysts are taking whatever news they can get and using it to estimate the extent of the crop losses. These estimates will largely determine the way the prices of oranges and other citrus crops change today and in the next couple of weeks. Orange juice futures have fallen 10 percent early this morning, for example, as analysts conclude that the damage was less than they had expected when they read the weather forecast on Friday.