California fire figures reveal total avocado damage

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Last month's wildfires in Southern California have caused $47m in
agricultural losses, with avocados suffering the hardest hits,
according to estimates released this week.

The figures from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) are the first official statewide estimates of damage caused by the fires that raged between October 21 to 25. They include fire losses from four counties, with almost 60 percent of the total losses coming from avocados, at around $27m. According to The California Avocado Commission, the fires have resulted in a 10 percent loss in avocado production in the current crop year, which it values at about $35 million including losses to both wind and fire. However, the commission said it expects overall supplies of the state's avocados to remain near the average levels of recent years. The California Farm Bureau Federation has also said it expects impact on prices and supplies will be moderated by the availability of avocados from other growing regions. The crop loss estimate, however, does not include losses or damage to avocado trees, which could affect California avocado production for several years to come, said the federation on its website. The fires - which raged for five days and were aggravated by strong winds - had prompted the President to declare seven counties in the state as disaster areas. San Diego County saw the largest losses, with CDFA estimates placing these at $42.6m, a large part of which resulted from damage to avocados. Orange County saw $2.1m in losses, mainly to avocados ($1.9m) and the rest to nursery stock. San Bernardino County reported $1.4m damages, with $600,000 lost production from dairy cows. Riverside County saw nearly $1.4m in losses to avocados. Prior to the fires, growers reported their total avocado crop to be 365m pounds for the 2008 season. The crop is now likely to come in at around 325m pounds by season end this month, said the California Avocado Commission. The total loss in acreage is around 3,100 a good portion of which is expected to be replanted. Beyond avocados, damages losses were also reported to citrus groves, plant nurseries, winegrape vineyards, egg ranches and other types of farms.

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