While yields are expected to be down slightly for Texas citrus this year, timely moisture will mean a high-quality, better-sized crop just as Rio Grande Valley growers seek to penetrate new markets.
“It has been a short-term inconvenience, but a long-term boon for the crop,” said Trent Bishop, sales manager for Lone Star Citrus Growers in Mission, Texas.
He said the entire annual rainfall for the valley fell in a 21-day period in September.
Crop yields are expected to be down, however, as part of the regular crop cycle. Bishop said lighter yield should not affect pricing since about 30% of the crop goes into juice.
“Ultimately, we want a lot more fresh because that means a lot more revenue,” he said.
Growers have been opening markets on the Eastern Seaboard since 2005, when a string of destructive hurricanes impacted Florida citrus, Bishop said.
The year also marked the onset of huanglongbing disease also known as citrus greening — in the state, which has also provided Texas with a window to seize more market share and develop a taste for the flavor of it citrus, he said.
Ray Prewett, president of Texas Citrus Mutual in Mission, said acreage is up slightly, but a successful season will depend on how well the valley manages the threat of HLB.
An active marketing campaign is underway to inform backyard growers and remove positive trees.
The Texas grapefruit has marketers buzzing with its deep red internal color, high brix level and high juice profile. Growing factors in the Rio Grande Valley include its soil type, coastal influence, humidity and high temperature.
National recognition is also growing. The Mission-based TexaSweet Citrus Marketing organization calls the variety Texas Rio Star. Delano, Calif.-based Paramount Citrus has said this year it will put big promotional dollars behind the name Sweet Scarletts.
The Paramount effect
Two years after Paramount bought farms in the valley and consolidated its operations, president David Krause said it’s time to market nationally. Local growers say they feel the competition, but most appreciate the branding for Texas citrus.
“Paramount brings a lot of new ideas and energy and marketing expertise,” Prewett said.
He said while there are fewer players now, most growers feel Paramount’s presence is an overall positive.
Krause said the fruit will be prominently labeled as a Texas product after successful trials in Midwest cities.
Paramount projects about 5 million cartons of volume again this year, with a high percentage going to its Sweet Scarletts.