Texas movement gaining ground

Texas movement gaining ground

Weather was a pain for Texas citrus growers as the 2018-19 season got underway.

“It’s been quite a challenging year so far,” Trent Bishop, vice president of sales for Lone Star Citrus Growers, Mission, Texas, said in early January.

The company couldn’t get critical mass early on for its oranges or grapefruit because of the weather, he said.

“As soon as we’d get started, we’d get rained out,” he said. “It was stop and go for what seemed like an eternity.”

It took five to six weeks for the season to finally get up to speed.

“We’re slowly making up ground, but it will be hard to totally catch up to where we were last year,” he said.

Pricing was much softer than last year, too.

F.o.b. prices on oranges ranged from $14.50-16 per 7/10-bushel carton of size 64s and 72s to mostly $20-22 on 113s and 138s from the Lower Rio Grande Valley on Jan. 8, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Prices on grapefruit ranged from $25.95-28.50 for fancy grade Rio Star size 23s to mostly $15-16 for size 56s.

The citrus market in Texas has “slowly and steadily increased” over the past 10 years, 
Bishop said.

Quality has been “nice” so far on oranges and grapefruit, but sizing, especially on grapefruit, has been smaller, he said.

Paul Obst Farm, Alamo, Texas, experienced its coldest October ever this season, said Martin Drewry, general manager.

The “weird weather pattern” dampened the company’s early orange and grapefruit harvests, he said.

The company started shipping both commodities in late November.

Quality has been good, and prices were “decent” but not as good as last year, Drewry said, when Texas benefited from increased demand resulting from Hurricane Irma in Florida.

The company will have more product this year than last year, he said, but sizing has been smaller.

Red grapefruit accounts for about 70% of the Texas citrus crop, and navel and valencia oranges make up the remaining 30%, said Dale Murden, president of Mission-based Texas Citrus Mutual.

Last year, Texas growers shipped about 5 million 7/10-bushel equivalents of grapefruit and about 3 million 7/10-bushel equivalents of navel and valencia oranges, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Volume should top those figures this season, Murden said.