Twenty years ago there were at least two dozen citrus houses in the state of Texas. That number has now dwindled to four, not due to attrition but to mergers and acquisition, which makes it all the more remarkable that Lone Star Citrus in Mission, TX, has thrived and prospered.
Earlier this year, the company inked a deal with Sunkist to be its exclusive provider of citrus from Texas. And the beginning of this season three weeks ago marked a major milestone for Lone Star when it harvested the first fruit from the trees planted in its own groves five-and-a-half years ago at the outset of the business venture between three Texasindustry veterans, Trent Bishop, Jud Flowers and T.J. Flowers.
“The Texas citrus season has started off very nicely,” Mr. Bishop told The Produce News in mid-October. “Although sizing is on the smaller side this early, demand has been very good as we help replenish the void left by California’s crop wrapping up early. We are still in need of some [rain] showers to help sizing, but overall quality looks very nice and our customers seem to agree by their repeat orders. We are very much looking forward to the season ahead of us.”
Though Lone Star has sourced citrus from its own groves previously, the fact that the first fruit from the groves it planted as it incorporated six years ago is a particular source of pride this season.
“It’s like any kind of long-term investment that you make: When you start seeing the first returns on that it’s nice to see your patience and hard work has paid off,” said Mr. Bishop. “Certainly being able to harvest that first fruit we planted five-and-a-half years ago is a little internal milestone for us that we’ve really been looking forward to.”
Texas citrus is primed for a banner year and Lone Star’s new groves only bolster that.
“Things are coming along nicely relative to where we were this time last year,” Mr. Bishop said. “We started the season two weeks sooner than we did last year due to some timely rains and two minor little fronts that came through recently and allowed the color to come on and we ran our first fruit — juice oranges, Navels and grapefruit — the week of Oct. 8.”
He continued, “Generally speaking there’s a vacuum or shortage of grapefruit in the market due to the fact that California wrapped up early. There’s not a lot of fruit in the stores right now. California had a very good market this summer, moved a lot of fruit at a much quicker pace than they normally would have and as a result there’s a natural vacuum in the market right now. The feedback we get from most of our retailers is they really look forward to this time of year because once they get Texas grapefruit in the stores that category really seems to pick up.”