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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007, 12:05 GMT
Big freeze sours US orange crops
Oranges following a severe freeze
The freeze could cost $1bn or more
US shoppers could soon be paying more for oranges and citrus fruits after a severe freeze damaged crops.

Growers in California say 70% of the season's oranges, lemons and tangerines may be destroyed costing $1bn (508m).

California - which mainly grows citrus fruit for eating, unlike Florida where much of it is juiced - has issued a state of emergency in 10 counties.

One grower said the price of an orange in US supermarkets could triple from 50 cents to almost $1.50 as a result.

"If you bought an orange at the supermarket for 50 cents, expect to pay a dollar to $1.49 for it," said Todd Steel, who owns Royal Vista Marketing, which distributes California citrus fruits throughout the country.

He said the firm may adjust its prices as the full extent of damage is made clear.

Big market

About 86% of US lemons and 21% of oranges are grown in California.

While Florida grows more oranges, these are mainly used to be turned into juice. Since California plays a small role in that market, juice prices are unlikely to see any change.

It is not just citrus fruits that have be damaged - strawberries, avocados and other crops have also been harmed by the bad weather.

As a result other crop prices have risen, tracking a global trend where adverse weather has affected markets.

Droughts in Australia have pushed up wheat costs, while corn recently hit a 10-year high as demand for ethanol soars.

Big freeze

As the governor of California issued the state of emergency across 10 counties, similar emergencies were also declared in Oklahoma and Missouri following severe weather.

California's Central Valley saw night time temperatures fall to between the low 20 degree Fahrenheit range (around -6 degrees Celsius) and the teens (-8 Celsius) over four consecutive nights.

Citrus crops are threatened when temperatures fall below 28 degrees (-2 degrees Celsius).

This latest bad weather comes after a freeze in December 1998 wrecked an estimated 85% of California's citrus crop and cost $700m, according to California's State Agriculture Secretary.

Meanwhile, in 2005 a significant portion of US crops were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, which also led to higher juice prices.


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