Texas citrus growers are in the catbird seat with none of the problems that have plagued other domestic growing areas through the first half of this season, according to Trent Bishop of Lone Star Citrus Growers in Mission, TX.
Lone Star was launched six years ago by three Texas industry veterans: Jud Flowers, T.J. Flowers and Mr. Bishop.
Earlier this year the company inked a deal with Sunkist to be its exclusive provider of citrus from Texas. They could not have chosen a better time to start such an auspicious partnership — citrus quality out of Texas has been remarkable this year.
The season got off to a quick start with fruit coming on two weeks early, and that momentum “has held up very well,” Mr. Bishop said. “The market this year has ben slightly better than what we would consider a historical average market, the quality of fruit has been fantastic and we’re still grading heavily in the fancy-to-choice ratio, with 80-90 percent fancy. Because the fruit has looked so nice and tasted so good, I believe we’ve driven consumption if not nationally at least back into Texas because it’s been a real firm market all along.”
Texas citrus is sometimes hampered cosmetically due to weather conditions that lead to scarring, but this year has been a remarkable exception. Brix levels have also been extraordinarily high, resulting in oranges and red grapefruit that are as tasty as they are attractive. The only blemish — as has been the case in all domestic growing areas this season — is that the fruit is a little smaller than is typical.
However, rains in December and early January already have Lone Star’s crop on the trees coming off a size larger than earlier in the deal, and Mr. Bishop thinks it is likely the fruit will increase one more size as the season moves into the second half.
“We find ourselves slightly ahead of last year as far as year-to-date volumes, and the outlook for the remainder of the crop looks very good. We had some timely rains in late December and January, which should finally put some better sizing on the fruit,” he said.
That would be the cherry on top of an already terrific crop.
“I’ll say that our original forecast had the fruit slightly larger sized than it really ended up being, but I don’t think any of us anticipated it to be grading out as high in the fancy-to-choice ratio as it has so it’s a slight tradeoff,” Mr. Bishop said Jan. 21. “Going forward, it looks like we’re going to get at least a little more size. We have seen as recently as last week the trend has started to turn and we’re peaking at least one size larger than we would have been in December. And who knows, as we go forward we may see that grow even one more.”
Mr. Bishop is grateful for the mild winter — and still cautious, having been on the other end of Mother Nature’s whims.
“It’s a good time to be in Texas and I’m very, very grateful for all the conditions right now having been on the other side of it,” he said. “When some of the conditions don’t go your way, you’ve just got to appreciate it when they do. We all know in this business things don’t always go your way, and in fact in most of the time they don’t so we’ll just be grateful for it.”