texas citrus

After Recent Challenges, Texas Citrus Looking Up

Daniel Cooper Production, Texas

texas citrus

The Texas citrus industry has faced numerous challenges in recent years, including Hurricane Hanna in 2020, winter storm Uri in early 2021 and droughts in both 2022 and 2023.

After Uri, Texas grapefruit production was at about 1.6 million boxes for the 2021–22 season, down 33% from the previous year. Orange production was about 400,000 boxes, down 62%.

Juan Anciso, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service vegetable specialist and associate head of the Department of Horticultural Sciences, said many producers have been worried there may be a repeat of 2021’s Uri. Anciso said those growers have decided either not to replant citrus or have abstained from expanding their citrus acreage.

“The extended winter freeze of 2021 effectively decimated the citrus crop, losing 2,400 to 3,000 acres of the 24,000 acres of citrus planted that year,” Anciso said.

QUANTITY AND QUALITY

In spite of the challenges of recent years, Anciso said this year’s citrus crop production is looking up.

He said last year a total of 4.1 million fresh 40-pound boxes of grapefruit and oranges were produced. Grapefruit accounted for 2.4 million boxes, and the remainder were oranges.

“The 2023–24 crop is off to a good start,” Anciso said, adding that quality and yield “are both looking really good at this point. There may be as much as a 20% increase over the last year’s production in these two crops.”

Other small-production citrus in the Rio Grande Valley, such as Persian limes and tangerines, appear to be unaffected by quality issues associated with last year’s drought, he said.

“There also has not been much of an issue with plant disease, including citrus greening, up to this point,” Anciso said. “The commercial citrus industry has taken an aggressive approach to curtailing citrus greening, and it looks like the efforts are paying off.”       

WATER SHORTAGES

The future of the crop will continue to depend on water availability. Irrigation water shortages in the region have occurred since the 1990s. They have been exacerbated since 1992 when Mexico began undersupplying the average minimum annual amount of water into the Rio Grande as required by a 1944 treaty.

“This water undersupply continues today,” said Luis Ribera, AgriLife Extension specialist in the Department of Agricultural Economics and director of Texas A&M’s Center for North American Studies. “The past 30-plus years have demonstrated a trend toward fewer and fewer acre-feet of irrigation water available to the Lower Rio Grande Valley area.”

RECOVERY UNDERWAY

Dale Murden, president of Texas Citrus Mutual, said he estimates citrus production in the Lower Rio Grande Valley to be at only about 60% of what it was before Uri. “We’re still trying to recover from the tree loss and damage from that winter storm, and many producers have been skeptical about replanting,” Murden said.

However, like Anciso, Murden said things are looking good this year. “Citrus production is up, the current fruit quality is excellent, and prices have remained high, all of which are good for the producer,” Murden said.

Source: Texas A&M AgriLife

Share this Post

Sponsored Content