(Sept. 5) Texas citrus growers and officials look forward to ample supplies, excellent quality and strong demand this fall.

Rio Queen Citrus Inc., Mission, could begin shipping the first week of October, a typical start to the deal, said Mike Martin, president.

Orange shipments should be underway by the end of September, with grapefruit following about Oct. 10, said Ray Prewett, president of Mission-based Texas Citrus Mutual. Both deals should wind up in May, he predicted.

Rio Queen’s volume could be down 5% to 10% from last year, Martin said. But with excellent shape and minimal scarring expected on grapefruits and oranges, the industry’s fresh packout actually should exceed 2006-07, Martin and Prewett said.

“We sent a lot to processing last year,” Martin said. “The quality looks much better this year.”

In 2006-07, Texas growers shipped about 4 million cartons of fresh grapefruit and 2.9 million cartons of fresh oranges, Prewett said.

In late August, sizing was about three or four weeks ahead of where it was last year at the same time, Martin said.

With California winding down a bit earlier this year because of its freeze, and good Mexican product hard to come by, Rio Queen already was receiving calls for product by late August, Martin said. That, he said, bodes well for October markets.

“I expect markets to be solid when we start,” he said.

Despite a big grapefruit crop expected out of Florida, volumes there are still down significantly from several years ago, before hurricanes ravaged the state, Prewett said. He expected a “pretty strong market” for Texas citrus this fall.

John McClung, president of the Texas Produce Association, Mission, said Texas would benefit from Florida’s disease woes and California’s freeze woes.

“Either one could happen to us, too, but assuming neither does, we anticipate a successful year,” he said.

On Sept. 4, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 7/10-bushel cartons of first-grade ruby reds from California at $12-14 for 23s, $12.50-14 for 27s, $12-13 for 32s, $11-12 for 36s, $11-11.50 for 14s, $10.50-11.25 for 48s and $10-11 for 56s.

At the same time, 7/10-bushel cartons of first-grade California valencias were $12-14 for 48-56s, $14-15 for 72s, $16-17 for 88s, $14-16 for 113s and $14-15 for 138s.