Hurricane Hanna Harms Texas Citrus

Ernie Neff hurricane

The Texas citrus industry is still assessing the damage from Hurricane Hanna, which hit the state on July 25.

“Current estimates suggest a 30 percent crop loss,” said Dale Murden, president of Texas Citrus Mutual and a citrus grower. “There were no damages to packing and processing facilities, and we do not anticipate any issues with processing this season. We have seen greenhouse damage and are evaluating those losses along with any potential tree damage.”

Murden said Texas Citrus Mutual is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture “to ensure the proper emergency designation” leading to loans and other possible federal assistance.

Grower Jud Flowers said the severity of damage from Hanna “varies greatly depending on row orientation and eyewall passage. Southeastern Cameron (County) and southwestern Hidalgo (County) had very little damage, but the northern part of both counties suffered the most with upwards of 50 percent fruit loss in the most affected parts. We had damaging winds in excess of 15 hours and that’s plenty of time to cause problems along with generally 8 to 13 inches of rain.”   

“On the positive side, we expect to see a considerable rise in our reservoir levels since the storm path covered a large part of our watershed,” said Flowers, president of Lone Star Citrus Growers.

Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) reported that Hanna developed into a Category 1 hurricane, “lashing the Texas Gulf Coast and the Rio Grande Valley with high winds and widespread rainfall.” TFB stated that the hurricane “first made landfall with 90 mile-per-hour winds in the Rio Grande Valley along the Cameron-Willacy county line. Preliminary reports suggest areas of the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend received anywhere from 2 to 15 inches of rain … In the largest citrus-growing area of Texas, orchards loaded with developing oranges and grapefruit are now standing in water, fruit bobbing uselessly underneath the trees.”

See TFB’s report about Hanna’s impact on citrus and other crops.

The July U.S. Department of Agriculture crop forecast pegged Texas’ 2019-20 grapefruit production at 4.4 million boxes, down from 5.8 million boxes forecast in June and down from 6.1 million boxes produced last season. Texas’ 2019-20 orange production was 1.34 million boxes, down from 2.3 million boxes forecast in June and down from 2.5 million boxes produced last season.

See the July crop forecast, the last of the 2019-20 season, for Texas and other citrus-producing states.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large