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» December 22, 2005 «
Now that he has returned from observing world trade talks in Hong Kong, a California Farm Bureau representative says he's disappointed the sessions didn't achieve more. California farmers say they could sell their crops to more customers around the world, if the World Trade Organization talks succeed in reducing agricultural trade barriers. California Farm Bureau Vice President Paul Wenger says the inflexibility of European officials has stalled talks about farm trade.
Mild weather along the Southern California coast has partially cushioned the shock, so far, for greenhouse owners facing much-higher energy bills. Farmers who raise plants in greenhouses often use natural gas to heat the structures … and gas prices rose sharply this year. Those increases have moderated somewhat in recent weeks, and the San Diego County Farm Bureau says mild weather has lessened the need for energy to heat greenhouses.
Natural-gas costs affect the rice business, too. Processors dry the rice after harvest, and costs for the natural gas needed to operate the rice dryers have escalated this year. At the same time, cool weather during the autumn caused rice to retain more moisture, further adding to drying expenses. This year's California rice crop will be smaller, because farmers planted less and yields dropped, but farmers describe crop quality as excellent.
Shoppers may find many more California avocados on the market in the coming months. Marketers say farmers expect a much-larger crop in the new season. The last season's California harvest of Hass avocados totaled 288 million pounds, well short of crop forecasts. But estimates for the coming season indicate production could rise sharply, to the 500 million pound range.Top