Abstract

In the 1980s Florida was struck by an unusual series of severe freezes that caused enormous damage to citrus groves. While citrus acreage in relatively freeze-free parts of the state has expanded rapidly since these freezes, serious questions remain about the commercial viability of growing citrus crops in some central Florida counties. This paper considers the role that freeze risk plays in the investment decisions of citrus growers. A simplified example is used to estimate tolerable levels of freeze risk for individuals evaluating the investment at different discount rates, and to show the impact of changes in the risk level. Changes in estimated freeze risk in the 1980s are computed over the historical temperature record, and related to the growers’ replanting decisions. It is concluded that the computed changes in the probability of a killing freeze would be sufficient to alter the citrus planting decisions of some investors. Furthermore, the longest available climate record should be used to estimate the risk of such low-probability extreme events.

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