(Oct. 13) South Texas citrus shippers continue to expect a quality crop, but heavy rains are slowing production, and marketers are asking retailers to keep in contact with suppliers to check on availability.

Sporadic rains were expected in the valley through Oct. 19.

TexaSweet Citrus Marketing, Mission, reported the McAllen/Mission area had received 27.52 inches of rain this year through Oct. 12, eclipsing the average annual rainfall of 22.61 inches.

On Oct. 13, TexaSweet, which promotes the valley’s citrus crop, reported supplies of fruit that was harvested between rains would last two to five days, but with the sporadic nature of rainfall in the valley, harvest crews should be able to keep a steady, if lighter-than-normal, supply to the packing sheds.

At the start of the 2002 season, which also was marked by rainfall in the valley, f.o.b.s for grapefruit were $15-17.25 for 7/10-bushel cartons of size 27 fancy grapefruit, $14-15.25 for size 32s, $10-10.25 for size 40s and $7.75-8.25 for 56s, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Early-season oranges from the Rio Grande Valley in 2002 were $9-10.25 for 7/10-bushel cartons of navels size 64 and 72, $8.25 for size 88s and $7-7.50 for size 113s; early-variety oranges were $9.25-10 for 64s, $7.50-8.25 for 88s and $7-7.50 for 113s.

The Texas Valley Citrus Committee, Mission, estimates the total assessed packout — citrus going to the fresh market — will be 9 million cartons this season, committee manager John McClung said. The grapefruit crop is traditionally 75% to 80% of the total citrus volume.

Last year, about 8 million 40-pound cartons were assessed, McClung said, and more fruit is expected to reach the fresh market because of a higher-quality crop.

According the Agricultural Marketing Service, a branch of the USDA, Texas shippers had moved 42,000 40-pound cases of oranges and 21,000 cases of grapefruit by truck by Oct. 5, 2002. This year at that time, shipments were too light to report.

Shippers consider the rain a blessing, however, because of drought conditions in south Texas for more than half a dozen years. It will also lead to larger sizes for the fruit in coming weeks.

“It’s the best quality in years, with larger sizes because of the rain,” said Richard Walsh, salesman at Healds Valley Farms Inc., Edinburg, Texas.