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Texas citrus moving into prime marketing season

The Texas citrus season usually gets under way in early October and can linger through the winter, but its prime marketing season is a 70-day window encompassing both fall holidays and blasting into the new year.IMG 7884

Led by its famous grapefruit and true to form, Texas fruit started hitting the market during the first few days of October. Trent Bishop, who is vice president of sales for Lone Star Citrus Growers in Mission, TX, told The Produce News on the first day of November that the first month of the season went very well. Texas had the market to itself for a short time, which led to strong pricing and great movement. After Hurricane Matthew moved through Florida in mid-October, shippers from that region also joined the grapefruit party. By November the market had dropped, though it was still relatively strong as Bishop prepared for the post-Thanksgiving pull.

“More and more we see sales really take off right after Thanksgiving,” he said.

Bishop noted that right before the Thanksgiving holiday, orders start to increase “and we typically have a very steady market for about 70 days that takes us all the way through January.”

The demand is augmented by the continued success of the grapefruit as a winter gift item, especially in Texas. The Lone Star executive said customers all over the country order Lone Star’s Winter Sweetz gift carton, which is actually half the size of a standard carton. Retailers display and sell it in its carton form. “It typically retails for about $9.99 and makes a real nice gift.”

Bishop said consumers take it as a host gift to parties and lots of parents use it as a gift for their kids’ teachers. “A lot of organizations use it as a fundraiser. The industry might not sell as many as we once did, but it is still a very strong program that gives us a nice boost in volume at very good f.o.b. prices.”

In fact, Bishop had just completed a deal with a retailer that will feature the gift carton in all of its Texas stores during the holiday season.

By early November, the Texas orange season was also in full swing. Though the orange crop only represents about 25 percent of the total citrus volume grown in south Texas, Bishop said it is a fundamental part of the program. “We use oranges as a tool to maximize grapefruit sales,” he said.

With Florida’s greening problems greatly limiting orange volume and California’s grapefruit season over, having the ability to offer both oranges and grapefruit is a point of differentiation for Texas shippers. In addition, California’s Valencia orange season had just about finished up by the end of October, giving Texas another opening for the sale of juicing oranges at retail.

“Right now, we have a strong $16 to $20 market on our early juice oranges,” Bishop said.