COVID-19 Hurts Texas Citrus

Ernie NeffCOVID-19

florida citrus
florida citrus

The COVID-19 pandemic that reduced food-service sales nationwide took a toll on some Texas citrus growers this season.

MARKET DISRUPTION
“Schools and restaurants make up a significant percentage of sales for Texas citrus,” said Dale Murden, a grower and president of Texas Citrus Mutual. “Whether it’s fresh or juice, the loss of those markets definitely hurt.”

At least in part because of the food-service disruption, many Texas growers had to sell a higher-than-normal percentage of their grapefruit for use in juice rather than as fresh fruit. “Since Texas grows fruit for the fresh market, and cost per acre reflects that, any juice fruit is a blow to a grower’s budget in terms of returns,” Murden said. “We wrapped up the season on April 22 and are still evaluating the season of COVID.” 

Food-service issues related to COVID-19 also hurt California’s lemon growers. Learn more here.

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CROP SIZE AND QUALITY
“Unfortunately, crop size was down this season,” Murden added. “Our overall cartons came in at 11,349,000 cartons of total fruit compared to a 20-year average of 14,820,000 cartons. Quality for grapefruit this season was off as well, as we sent 54 percent of the crop to juice this season.”

PEST AND WEATHER PROBLEMS
Murden said Texas growers faced some serious pest challenges. “Mexican fruit fly was a significant factor this season in the Lower Valley. ACP numbers were a little higher this season as well,” he said. ACP is the Asian citrus psyllid, vector of the devastating citrus greening disease.

Weather has also posed problems for Texas growers. “The last two Junes we have experienced record flooding rains, in some places over 20 inches for that month alone,” Murden said. “January we had high winds, and frost in February, followed now by severe drought and high winds and heat. So weather has been a factor.” He described this season’s weather as an “extreme rollercoaster.”

“On a positive note,” Murden concluded, “bloom and fruit set already look far better than the season we just wrapped up.”

Learn more about Texas Citrus Mutual and the issues it addresses on behalf of the state’s citrus growers.

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About the Author
Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large