Frigid weather hits meat plants, ports, citrus, and livestock
Snow and bitter cold damaged the citrus crop in Texas, slowed meat production in the Plains, and threatened to snarl grain exports through the Gulf of Mexico. Some traders have claimed force majeure, the unforeseeable inability to fulfill a contract, because of ice and cold weather in Houston and New Orleans, reported AgriCensus, a market news agency.
Besides harsh conditions at the ports, the winter storm, pushed farther south than usual by the polar vortex, slowed freight movement throughout the Plains. Houston and New Orleans are major export sites for wheat, corn, and soybeans. The Houston ship canal was closed briefly.
“The worst is behind us now. But for certain, there were a few days of disruption,” a shipping source told AgriCensus.
Dale Murden, head of the trade group Texas Citrus Mutual, told AccuWeather that grapefruit and Valencia oranges were still on the trees when below-freezing temperatures reached southern Texas. “We will no doubt lose some of the crop as we are seeing ice buildup inside the fruit,” he said. Texas ranks behind Florida and California in U.S. citrus production.
Ranchers in Texas, the No. 1 cattle state, faced potential shortages of feed and water for their animals due to the storm. “No feed, no water, and no heat doesn’t make for a good situation,” Texas agriculture commissioner Sid Miller said to the Wall Street Journal.
Meatpacking plants in the Plains scaled back operations or even closed for a day because of the weather.