Freeze Damage Update on Texas Citrus

Ernie Neff freeze

Winter Storm Uri left iced-over grapefruit trees in the Rio Grande Valley.
(Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

Citrus took the biggest freeze hit from recent Winter Storm Uri of any agricultural commodity in Texas, reported Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. AgriLife Extension estimated citrus crop losses of at least $230 million. Other Texas commodities taking major freeze hits were livestock, with losses of at least $228 million, and vegetable crops, with at least $150 million in losses.

Luis Ribera, AgriLife Extension economist, said citrus producers in the Rio Grande Valley lost virtually all of their Valencia orange crop and more than 60% of their grapefruit crop. “Even more citrus crops would have been lost had many not been harvested before the storm,” he said.

Ribera said the AgriLife Extension estimate for citrus losses was based primarily on losses in the Rio Grande Valley during the storm.

“That estimate also included longer-term losses from next year’s crops, but it did not include the cost of citrus plants that could die or remain badly damaged by the freeze and have to be replaced,” Ribera said. “If they must be replaced, it will be several years before those new citrus trees are able to bear fruit, so the losses could be much more.”

Juan Anciso, AgriLife Extension horticulturist, said about 200 acres of lemons and limes produced in South Texas were destroyed completely because those plants were more sensitive to cold weather than other types of citrus.

“If those producers choose to replant, it will be three to five years before those new plants will begin to yield fruit,” Anciso said.

Ribera said while the effects of the storm likely will impact grapefruit availability and prices in the future, it probably won’t have a significant impact on orange prices due to large supplies available from Florida and California.

“There are still many as yet unknown and lingering effects of Winter Storm Uri,” said Mark Waller, associate head of Texas A&M University’s Department of Agricultural Economics. “What we can say is these figures are conservative, and we expect more losses as a long-term effect of this disaster.”

See earlier comments here about the freeze’s impact on citrus from Dale Murden, citrus grower and president of Texas Citrus Mutual.

Source: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

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