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Sunshine State to benefit from citrus freeze

Oranges damaged by cold temperatures sit on the ground in an orange grove in Fresno, Calif.

KAI RYSSDAL: It's cold out here in California, as you might have heard. And sad to say wherever you are, you're going to be feeling the chill in the supermarket.

But it's a dark cloud that has a silver lining for the Sunshine States. From WLRN in Miami, where it's 80 and raining today, Marketplace's Dan Grech has more.


DAN GRECH: California is the nation's number one producer of fresh oranges and grapefruits. But after four nights of freezing temperatures, three-quarters of California's citrus crop is gone. That's opened up new possibilities for growers in Florida.

Andrew Meadows is with the Florida Department of Citrus. He says Mother Nature was good to Florida this season — finally.

ANDREW MEADOWS: We've had a couple of rough years with hurricanes. This year we were spared. And we certainly empathize with California growers. But the way agriculture works, somebody's misfortune is another person's fortune.

Forget hip-hop. There's an East Coast, West Coast rivalry in the citrus industry. California oranges are prettier because of the state's Mediterranean climate. 90 percent of its oranges are sold as fresh fruit. Florida oranges are often wind-blown and tinged green. But Florida's humidity makes them juicier, and 90 percent end up squeezed into OJ.

MIKE STUART: Certainly, there's to some degree a rivalry, but it's a very friendly one.

That's Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association in Orlando. He says because Florida's industry is so geared toward juice, it might be hard for the state to pick up California's slack.

STUART: Certainly, we'll do our best to meet demand. But depending on what the impact in the marketplace is from the freeze, that may be a steep climb.

Stuart says there will likely be a shortage of fresh oranges this winter. That translates into higher prices on supermarket shelves. Oranges that usually cost 50 cents a piece may jump to triple that.

In Miami, I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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