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As Texas citrus rebuilds, a good season is at hand

mission, TX — In 2005, Florida citrus groves were damaged by a hurricane. In 2017, Hurricane Irma again caused great harm to Florida’s citrus industry.

After the 2005 Florida hurricane, East Coast markets opened wider by the new market gap. “We have been trying to build on the East Coast for the last ten years.”

Trent Bishop, vice president of sales for Lone Star Citrus Growers, said Texas’ citrus industry gains are “not a celebration of what is going on in Florida. But we will, if asked, fill the market” for supply gaps.

Bishop, of course, noted that the Texas citrus industry was decimated by freezes in 1989 and 1983, “so we clearly understand what Mother Nature’s wrath feels like.” The 1983 freeze was the worst for his trade.

But, the Texas’ citrus industry re-grouped, re-planted and is back, he said. “I have no doubt that my friends in Florida will do the same.”

(The Produce News reported Oct. 6 that the Florida Department of Agriculture & Agriculture Services announced that the preliminary agricultural damages caused by Hurricane Irma in Florida total more than $2.5 billion, including $760.8 million for citrus.)

Texas grapefruit shipping for Lone Star Citrus Growers was scheduled to hit a volume in late October or early November.

Lone Star started packing grapefruit Oct. 3. The fruit size for Texas citrus is heavily dependent on August and September rainfall.

McAllen was fortunate to be “on the dry side” of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated the Houston area in the late days of August. From the point of view of South Texas citrus trees, “Harvey was a non-event.”

“Since then, we have had a couple of nice afternoon storms. The first fruit had a little bit of size,” Bishop observed in early October.

“Fancy fruit is what you’re always looking for. The growers who are able to produce that year in and year out make the most money on the crop. Our customers are willing to pay for premium fruit.”

Lone Star’s featured brand, Winter Sweetz, will kick off in mid-November and run through March.

Beyond Winter Sweetz, “we do custom packs for a few exclusive retail partners,” Bishop added.