COLLEGE STATION – The prices and production of Texas citrus are striking a sour note among the state’s growers this year, Texas Cooperative Extension reports.
“Sales are lagging substantially and prices are down from last year,” said Dr. Julian Sauls of Weslaco, Extension horticulturist. Citrus harvest lasts from September to June.
“With the possible exception of California, the total U.S. crop is down substantially,” Sauls said. “Florida’s orange and grapefruit crop is even down significantly.”
Texas production is only down 4 percent to 5 percent. However, with a steep drop in the volume of available fruit, prices should be up.
“This isn’t the case,” Sauls said. “Prices are down and movement is slow. When movement is slow, prices fall even further.”
A combination of factors, including a lack of adequate rainfall and irrigation water, have contributed to the drop in yields. Trees are beginning to feel the toll.
“The trees can’t continue to bear fruit forever without the water they need to sustain their growth and development,” Sauls said. “This is what we are seeing.”
The immediate concern of producers is to make a profit off of the fruit they have produced so far, then wait for bloom of the current crop, which begins at least one month from now.
“We can’t do anything about sales, prices or demand, so we just take our lumps and wait for the new season,” Sauls said.
Despite the calamities growers are facing, Sauls spoke positively about the future.
“I don’t believe these conditions are going to remain. Citrus growers are an optimistic bunch. There is always going to be a better year next year,” he said.
“The fact the people in the industry today are actually in the industry is telling in itself. They were almost wiped out in 1983 with a major freeze. Nearly 70 percent of the trees were lost.”
In 1989, nearly 60 percent of the trees were killed out. “The growers who survived those two freezes are a hearty bunch. They can handle this,” Sauls said.
He encouraged consumers to buy more citrus. “I am not sure why we are lagging in sales,” he said, “but people should know that prices are low and there are a lot of good red grapefruit and oranges out there.”