The Texas grapefruit crop was expected to be near normal, though the forecast of freezing weather early in the new year had those in the industry keeping their fingers crossed.
“We had a lot of rain and drizzle (in mid-December),” said John McClung, president of the Texas Produce Association, Mission. “It was good in taking care of the trees, not good in getting in harvest.”
McClung said he expected an average grapefruit crop, with roughly 10 million 40-pound cartons of fruit getting packed.
“Quality looks good,” he said. “Sugar is good, size has picked up. Absent a freeze, we’re in good shape.”
Prices also have risen notably over the last year. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of Jan. 19, grapefruit out of the lower Rio Grande Valley for 32s ranged from $17.25-$18.30 compared to $12.25-13.30 for the same size a year ago.
Ray Prewett, president of Texas Citrus Mutual, Mission, said that in addition to the 10 million cartons of grapefruit, the state estimated about 2.5 million cartons of navels and other varieties of oranges.
That’s slightly down from 2.6 million cartons packed a year ago.
“It’s not a big change from last year,” he said. “We’ll have small sizes at first, but we got some good rains here lately that might size the fruit up. The sugar-to-acid ratios are up, so quality looks good. There’s not a big difference in movement.”
Prewett said less Texas citrus would be used for making juice this year.
“We’re a fresh industry, and we want most of our business to be in fresh,” he said.
Mike Martin, president of Mission-based Rio Queen Citrus Inc., said his company wrapped up a busy holiday season, and he believed this year’s take from citrus would be comparable to a year ago.
“So far, so good,” he said. “We’ve had a fair amount of wet weather, which is pretty unusual. It gave us good moisture to carry through winter, though it might interrupt harvest some.”
Martin said 75% of Rio Queen’s business is grapefruit, but it also markets navels and valencias.
“We thought grapefruit was down, but I think it’s going to be close to last year,” Martin said. “Oranges are up a little.”