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TCM MID-YEAR MEETING
Texas Citrus Mutual's 17th Annual Mid-Year Meeting is scheduled for March 24, 2000, at the Citrus Center in Weslaco. Registration and a breakfast buffet start at 7:00 am, with the program commencing at 8:30. CEU's and Certified Crop Advisor credits will be offered for some of the presentations.
There are a number of good topics scheduled. At the risk of slighting other speakers and their topics, I would suggest that few growers will want to miss Falco Witkamp of the Florida Citrus Commission discuss grapefruit marketing, or the following marketing panel. The same goes for Jo Jo White's discourse on the water treaty situation with Mexico.
Contact TCM at 956/584-1772 for additional information. See you there.
FLORIDA'S CANKER WOES-
The citrus canker situation in Florida just keeps on defying containment, as new finds seemingly occur regularly-many of which occur adjacent to quarantined areas. The current plan is to destroy all citrus within 1900 feet of an infected tree-that is 260 acres around a single infected tree.
If that doesn't sound serious, how about the fact that, to date, Florida has destroyed half a million trees in urban and grove settings. At typical Texas spacings, that's over 3500 acres of citrus trees; at the wider spacings common in Florida, that's over 4000 acres.
We wish them well.
WATER TREATY ISSUE-
You have heard a great deal about this issue-and will continue to do so until it is resolved. In brief, Mexico must deliver 1,750,000 acre feet of water into the Rio Grande from several tributary rivers in Mexico over any given five-year period commencing after the two reservoirs are at conservation capacity. The last time we had full reservoirs was in the fall of 1992.
What this means is that since October, 1992, Texas should have received about 2.6 million acre feet of water-but received only about 1.1 million, leaving a deficit of about 1.4 million acre feet currently. The 1944 treaty provides only two exceptions- extraordinary drought in the watersheds of those tributaries and/or a serious accident to the hydraulic systems.
Rainfall in the tributary watersheds in the last seven plus years was about 90 percent of normal-so that exception won't hold water, so to speak. But what constitutes a serious accident to the hydraulic system? I don't know, but the numerous dams on those tributaries didn't appear by accident. I do admit to skepticism about the now-seven-years-plus drought in the watersheds of the Rio Grande, especially when I hear of the number of impoundments on the Rio Concho alone (nine, I think).
It is astonishing that Mexican officials have stated that they would use the impounded water to meet their needs first, then send any extra water to pay down the deficit. I wonder if Mexican citizens, farmers and ranchers along the lower reaches of the Colorado River between Sonora and Baja California agree with that position by their government officials.
So, listen to what Jo Jo has to say-maybe he'll tell us what constitutes an accident to the hydraulic system?
While the powers that be try to work out the treaty issue, the peak irrigation season is upon us. Driving around the Valley, it is obvious that at least some producers are doing their part to conserve water-lots of cantaloupes and melons under drip irrigation and plastic mulch, microsprayers and drip in citrus, special bordering of orchard middles to reduce the total wetted area.
I did see one melon field where they couldn't keep the plastic down, so they flooded the furrows, apparently hoping that would solve the problem. Another field just up the road has no problem with the wind ripping the plastic off the beds-makes you wonder about the difference in plastic or its installation. But, I digress.
Then there are other producers proceeding with irrigation as usual, running too many furrows and too slowly, or stacking it up on the tail end, then cutting it into the drainage ditch. Those are the producers that need to be on metered water so that the rest of us can have a little more water when we need it.
ON GRAPEFRUIT JUICE....-
Have you checked the price of processed grapefruit lately? If not, you could be in for a pleasant surprise-try $80 a ton delivered in. You still incur pick and haul costs, plus the charge for elimination (i.e., the cost to run it through the packinghouse where it is eliminated) and reserves. That still leaves the net up around $30 or so a ton.
Is that really a floor price for grapefruit, especially for Choice grade, as some claim? I would like to believe that, but somehow, I am skeptical. For example, I recall a couple of recent situations in which the net return per ton for eliminated oranges was greater than that for No. 2 oranges shipped fresh.
You see, the profit to the packinghouse on a ton of fruit eliminated on the packingline is somewhat less than that on 50 cartons of choice fruit shipped. And the more total cartons shipped, the more economy of scale kicks in to reduce packing costs, thereby increasing the profit margin-for the packinghouse.
Do the math yourself-find out your packinghouse's pick-pack-and-sell charge, as well as the charge for eliminations. Then check out the typical f.o.b. sales prices of Texas Choice grapefruit-especially Ruby-Sweet. In other words, subtract pick-and-haul and elimination charges from $80, then divide by 50 (cartons per ton) to get the minimum price above pick-pack-and-sell to equal the return from eliminations.
For example, at $30 per ton net to the grower for processed grapefruit, the average price per carton of Choice grapefruit must be at least $0.60 above pick-pack-and-sell charges of the packinghouse. If it isn't, you are better off having your Choice fruit eliminated to the processor.
The weather continues hot and dry, with daily winds that have been up in the 20's or better. While December was cooler than normal, January has been 5-6 degrees warmer than normal. The records aren't tabulated for February yet, but I will be surprised if the numbers are less than 6-7 degrees above normal.
In many orchards, some grapefruit trees have already finished bloom, others are still to come. Navels were pretty much on schedule, as are other oranges.
While harvesting is ongoing, the fact is that fertilization, weed control and irrigation are in full swing as growers prepare for the new season. Given the mild winter and mite problems overwinter, I suspect many growers plan to incorporate TemikŪ before irrigating and without delaying until well past post-bloom. Those who favor other materials should pay special attention to the mite situation during March, as you may have a serious problem before you normally expect to see significant mite numbers.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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