(Jan. 29) EXETER, Calif. — California Citrus Mutual put crop losses from the January freeze at $803.5 million — and rising.

The report released Jan. 23 revealed damage to the navel orange crop accounted for more than half the loss, $410 million. Lemon growers lost $114 million, while the loss for grapefruit growers was put at $28.5 million. Mandarin varieties, by percentage the state’s fastest growing citrus crop, lost $67 million.

Joel Nelsen, president of Citrus Mutual, said valencia trees had set fruit prior to the arrival of the low temperatures. Though the valencia harvest does not begin in California until early spring, Nelsen said Citrus Mutual estimated the variety lost $184 million.

“The losses will almost certainly increase as we get a better handle on damages,” Nelsen said.

Based on the 2006-07 season’s first quarter, Citrus Mutual had forecast gross revenues would exceed $1.5 billion.

The 2007 freeze caused a significantly greater dollar damage to the citrus industry than the state’s last major freeze in December 1998. Citrus losses that year, Nelsen said, totaled $581 million.

Bob Blakely, director of grower relations for Citrus Mutual, said there were major differences between the 1998 freeze and this year’s freeze. This year, he said there were more nights of low temperatures, and those temperatures stayed lower longer.

Most citrus crops can survive low temperatures for short durations. Blakeley said damage occurs when temperatures are in the mid-20s or lower for several hours.

Blakeley said Citrus Mutual did not calculate losses by variety in the wake of the 1990 freeze. That year, he said the entire lemon crop was lost as was 75% of the navel orange crop. Industry losses in 1990 were $700 million, he said.

Blakeley said there may be discrepancies between the damage losses reported by Citrus Mutual and the damages released by state and county agencies. He said Citrus Mutual used current market prices to arrive at its estimates. Regulations require counties to use five-year average prices when reporting losses, he said.