|Published:||Dec 15, 2010 6:11 AM EST|
|Updated:||Dec 15, 2010 1:26 AM EST|
DESOTO COUNTY, Fla. - Florida citrus growers are waiting anxiously to check on the impact of a second consecutive night of below-freezing temperatures. Any significant damage could have a serious impact on both consumers and communities that depend on agriculture.
Justin Sorrells' groves south of Arcadia made it through the first night of the deep freeze, but a second night of even colder temps has him worried.
"You would have ice develop inside the fruit, once that happens, that would dry out, so you won't have as much juice after a freeze as you would beforehand," Sorrells explained.
But Sorrells is just as concerned about the ripple effect of a freeze.
"Its not just the orange groves we're worried about, its our employees," Sorrells said.
"DeSoto County is the third largest citrus producing county in the state, we depend on it," said Barbara Carlton, executive director of the Peace River Valley Citrus Growers Association. "When I say 'we,' its not just the grower, its the banker, its the restaurants, its the insurance salesman. "
Carlton says citrus has a half-billion dollar economic impact for DeSoto County, which could take a huge hit if the year's crop is lost.
Then there's consumers, who stand to pay more if retailers react to damage reports by raising orange juice prices.
"When you see a shortage of anything, the natural response is to increase prices because its worth more if there's less of it," Carlton said.
But Carlton says growers wouldn't necessarily benefit from such an instant price hike. Growers were paid long ago for the oranges that produced the juice that's now in stores.
It's an uncertain future that depends on what growers find after the sun rises on Wednesday.
"Fortunately we're a tough lot," Carlton said. "We'll just wait and see and do our prayers."
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