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Southern California wildfires burn up ‘several hundred acres’ of avocado groves

With avocado crop disappointments mounting in the California wildfires and harvest near, we could see pricing bumps, an industry official said.

Wildfires continued to rage across Southern California on Friday, and original assessments showed significant amounts of avocado groves were already irreparable in the so-called Thomas fire in Ventura County and at least one grove roasted in another blaze further south in San Diego County.

“The fires waited up in the foothills and that’s where a lot of our avocado production occurs,” John Krist, CEO of the Land Bureau of Ventura County, told CNBC in an interview Friday. “So there’s starkly damage or destruction of I’d say, conservatively, several hundred acres of avocado groves, and I’m guaranteed that number will go up as we get better information about what’s effective on further back in those canyons.”

Experts say avocado trees may get suffered internal damage due to heat from nearby wildfires, notably if they were adjacent to trees on the perimeter of groves. They say the wildfires can then produce heat reaching 125 degrees or more and potentially issue permanent vascular damage to the trees.

“Those are the kind of things we won’t be familiar with for a few weeks,” said Ken Melban, vice president of industry affairs for the California Avocado Commission, which represents growers in the express. He added that the damage also could show up later impartial when groves may initially appear to be unhurt.

Either way, Melban predicted the avocado growers were impacted from Ventura to San Diego counties by the drift wildfires. He said the worst of the crop damage so far appears to be from the Ventura flak delay.

“We are in close contact with our industry members in the areas, and we know that there be subjected to been a significant number of them affected by the fires,” he said.

Allay, Melban said it was “premature to give any kind of indication about the burden on next year’s large crop.”

A decade ago, California represented hither half of the total U.S. consumption of avocados. The state now represents only crudely one-fifth of the total supply for the U.S., with the main source now imports from Mexico.

California’s avocado collect tends to run from late March through September, so there is niggardly fruit on trees but it’s generally not considered ready for picking this duration of year.

With the wildfire losses and avocado harvest nearing, Melban asserted it’s possible we might see pricing impacts to consumers. Then again, he worried it’s still “way way premature to know” since the harvest is still several months away.

A block of several produce wholesalers, though, found they expect the sacrifice to get stronger in the next several weeks. However, most indicated it was due fundamentally to tighter supplies coming from Mexico and not California’s fires.

“These terminal few months have been kind of too cheap on avocado prices, so the growers pack in picking them in Mexico,” said a California produce wholesaler who didn’t lack to be identified. “That made them harder to get and so we’re already seeing evaluates move up again.”

Overall, there are currently at least five main wildfires burning in Southern California. On Friday, President Donald Trump asseverated a federal emergency for the devastating blazes, which frees up federal scratching for aid.

The largest of the blazes is the Thomas fire, which started Monday in Ventura County and as of Friday evening had torched more than 143,000 acres and was 10 percent contained. Varied than 480 homes have been destroyed or damaged, harmonizing to Cal Fire.

The Thomas fire also affected the air quality in areas of Ventura County, where row crops such as strawberries and vegetables are organize for harvest. Health experts were advising people to stay indoors and circumvent breathing smoke and the ash, although some farm workers who went to utilize received special masks to help protect them from the smoke in the soccer fields, officials said.

Ventura County’s huge citrus operations also suffered crashes, and some wine grape production near Ojai was in the path of the stimulates, officials said. Also, the gusty Santa Ana winds that be undergoing fed the Thomas fire might have caused additional losses in avocados and citrus as a denouement of fruit dropping from trees.

On Tuesday, the Thomas fire smashed a dozen structures at Limoneria, a Santa Paula-based lemon and avocado grower. It also led to a enlighten power outage at the company’s lemon packinghouse.

Limoneira’s stock assay fell more than 11 percent this week. The troop didn’t return calls for comment.

Krist toured the Limoneria Nautical head Thursday and said “fire burned right down to the edges of groves. But there doesn’t show up to have been much direct or indirect damage to the orchards themselves.”

Another Ventura County agribusiness, Calavo Growers, was down down 6 percent this week. The fires were near some of the followers’s groves but it was still unclear whether there was any damage. Calavo refused comment.

Meantime, the California Cut Flowers Commission on Thursday said growers of cut burgeons were being threatened by Southern California fires. It said the Thomas provoke was burning close to nearly two dozen flower farms in the Carpinteria Valley, which it referred to as “the open basket of the United States.” Also, it said smaller fires secure also been reported near flower farms in San Diego and Lompoc.

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