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

With avocado crop losses mounting inside the California wildfires as well as harvest near, we could see pricing impacts, an industry official said.

Wildfires continued to rage across Southern California on Friday, as well as initial assessments showed significant amounts of avocado groves were already lost inside the so-called Thomas fire in Ventura County as well as at least one grove scorched in another blaze further south in San Diego County.

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

Experts say avocado trees may have suffered internal damage due to heat via nearby wildfires, especially if they were adjacent to trees on the perimeter of groves. They say the wildfires can sometimes produce heat reaching 125 degrees or more as well as potentially cause permanent vascular damage to the trees.

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

Either way, Melban said the avocado growers were impacted via Ventura to San Diego counties by the current wildfires. He said the worst of the crop damage so far appears to be via the Ventura fire.

“We are in close contact with our industry members inside the areas, as well as we know that will there have been a significant number of them affected by the fires,” he said.

Still, Melban said This specific was “premature to give any kind of indication about the impact on next year’s large crop.”

A decade ago, California represented about half of the total U.S. consumption of avocados. The state at This specific point represents only roughly one-fifth of the total supply for the U.S., with the main source at This specific point imports via Mexico.

California’s avocado harvest tends to run via late March through September, so there can be little fruit on trees however This specific’s generally not considered ready for picking This specific time of year.

With the wildfire losses as well as avocado harvest nearing, Melban said This specific’s possible we might see pricing impacts to consumers. Then again, he stressed This specific’s still “way way premature to know” since the harvest can be still several months away.

A check of several produce wholesalers, though, found they expect the pricing to get stronger inside the next several weeks. However, most indicated This specific was due largely to tighter supplies coming via Mexico as well as not California’s fires.

“These last few months have been kind of too cheap on avocado prices, so the growers stopped picking them in Mexico,” said a California produce wholesaler who didn’t want to be identified. “that will made them harder to get as well as so we’re already seeing prices move up again.”

Overall, there are currently at least all 5 major wildfires burning in Southern California. On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a federal emergency for the devastating blazes, which frees up federal funding for aid.

The largest of the blazes can be the Thomas fire, which began Monday in Ventura County as well as as of Friday evening had burned more than 143,000 acres as well as was 10 percent contained. More than 480 homes have been destroyed or damaged, according to Cal Fire.

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

Ventura County’s huge citrus operations also suffered impacts, as well as some wine grape production near Ojai was inside the path of the fires, officials said. Also, the gusty Santa Ana winds that will have fed the Thomas fire might have caused additional losses in avocados as well as citrus as a result of fruit dropping via trees.

On Tuesday, the Thomas fire destroyed a dozen structures at Limoneria, a Santa Paula-based lemon as well as avocado grower. This specific also led to a brief power outage at the company’s lemon packinghouse.

Limoneira’s stock cost fell more than 11 percent This specific week. The company didn’t return calls for comment.

Krist toured the Limoneria facility Thursday as well as said “fire burned right down to the edges of groves. however there doesn’t appear to have been much direct or indirect damage to the orchards themselves.”

Another Ventura County agribusiness, Calavo Growers, was down about 6 percent This specific week. The fires were near some of the company’s groves however This specific was still unclear whether there was any damage. Calavo declined comment.

Meantime, the California Cut Flowers Commission on Thursday said growers of cut flowers were being threatened by Southern California fires. This specific said the Thomas fire was burning close to nearly two dozen flower farms inside the Carpinteria Valley, which This specific referred to as “the flower basket of the United States.” Also, This specific said smaller fires have also been reported near flower farms in San Diego as well as Lompoc.

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