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Lone Star flourishing in fresh citrus business

MISSION, TX— As the Texas citrus industry has consolidated, Lone Star Citrus Growers has continued to thrive, according to TJ Flowers, vice president of operations and sales. There are about 30,000 acres of commercial citrus production in south Texas.

“Although our competition operates on a larger scale, we at Lone Star Citrus are not only a viable option, but we are a bit smaller and offer a hands-on approach. We have a high level of customer service and the ability to turn on a dime, as necessary. If customers need an ad or advance pricing, we can decide on the spot.”

TJ-Flowers-Lone-StarTJ FlowersOn average, the firm ships between 1.5 and 1.75-million boxes of fresh grapefruit and oranges a season.

The featured product, grapefruit, generally is shipped from October through April.

Flowers said the Texas citrus industry “has evolved. There used to be several Texas citrus shippers. In my 16 years in this business, I’ve seen a lot of consolidation. But the guys that remain tend to be solid.”

He noted that “when people think of Texas grapefruit, they tend to think of Ruby Red, which is still around, but that’s 10 percent of what we do.”

Rio Star is the best Texas red grapefruit variety now, he said. It is normally available from October through April. “The taste is as good if not better” than the Ruby Red. “There is more color and people buy with their eyes.” The Rio Star has an appealing blush on the outside and great red color inside.

Lone Star Citrus handles about one-quarter of all Rio Star production in the state, Flowers said. This includes “what we control or have from independent growers. That ebbs and flows year to year.

“We plant new acreage year in and year out. Our independent grower base can change annually, so our idea is to constantly increase our own production. We started our program planting 12 years ago.”

About 75 percent of the planting by Lone Star Citrus is in grapefruit. Two years ago Lone Star began planting Valencias.