|IN THIS ISSUE:
THE GRAPEFRUIT INTERACTION
According to Florida Citrus Administrative Committee Utilization Reports, Florida packers shipped 3.06 million cartons of early/mids this season-which is a whopping 24.3 percent decrease from the 1999-00 season. Navels counted 5.37 million cartons-down a mere 1.1 percent from a year ago. Valencias are still in progress, but movement is currently up 8.6 percent.
Similarly, Florida grapefruit in the domestic market stands at 12.75 million cartons, which is down 7.2 percent-though export grapefruit at 17.81 million cartons is down a mere 0.2 percent.
Texas early oranges at 1.44 million cartons was down 9.0 percent from last season, while the 0.57 million cartons of navels was up 2.9 percent, Valencias are up 4.3 percent at 0.24 million cartons. Texas fresh grapefruit volume is 6.54 million cartons, which is 8.7 percent below last season.
At this point, I should point out what you might have missed as you read the above. With total citrus acreage of only about 4 percent that of Florida, Texas shipped 47.1 percent the volume of early/mids as Florida, about 10.6 percent as much navels and about 49.3 percent as much grapefruit (in the domestic market). Alas, Texas shipped less that 1.5 percent as much grapefruit into export channels.
These data reiterate what most of us already know-the Texas industry is based entirely on the domestic fresh market, while Florida's is geared mostly to processing, with a strong emphasis on export grapefruit. Now, 30 million plus cartons (to date) of fresh Florida grapefruit is no trifling amount-but it represents probably less than 40 percent of total production. About half of Florida's colored grapefruit goes fresh, while less than a fourth of its whites do.
From the preceding discourse, it is obvious that early/mid orange sales are way down, navels are about even, Valencias are up a bit and domestic grapefruit is down significantly. With volume down, prices should be up, but any grower can tell you that prices are in the pits.
Although Texas production is up substantially, Florida production is down sufficiently that the overall production from the two states is down. According to the supply and demand principle of economics, demand should, therefore, be up-but we have already seen that it isn't. Too, reduced supplies normally mean increased prices-but that hasn't been the case, either. Thus, we have lower overall production, lower overall sales and lower prices. So, what's wrong with the citrus market this season?
For grapefruit, it has been opined that emerging reports of grapefruit interactions with a number of medications may be a factor in reduced sales. I cannot argue that, as a number of medications have been shown to interact with grapefruit-and some of the most devoted of grapefruit consumers are in an age group that is more likely to take such medications. See the next article for more discussion of this situation.
The grapefruit-medication interaction doesn't apply to oranges, yet overall orange sales are down, too. Is it possible that the winter storm extremes through much of the country and Canada negatively impacted citrus sales? After all, truckers can't haul when highways are closed, nor can consumers get to the supermarket easily. This opinion could be checked by comparing sales of other fresh produce during the winter months.
How about the threatened boycott of Florida citrus because of the election mess in south Florida? The connection between Florida citrus and Texas should be obvious-President Bush is from Texas and his brother Jeb is the governor of Florida. A whole lot of people are bitter about the outcome, so it could be a factor even without an organized boycott.
Too, fruit fly quarantines, canker quarantines and similar programs frequently alarm consumers, as they just don't understand that such programs are for their own best interests as well as those of the affected industries. Perhaps we need to be doing a better job of educating consumers about such issues.
Then, again, maybe Americans and Canadians just aren't buying as much grapefruit and oranges this season. Certainly, consumption has trended downward for years. In any case and for whatever reasons, fresh citrus utilization is down.
As for lower prices, we know that producers are mostly price-takers, as the price is essentially established by the buyers-of which there are fewer and fewer every season. In times of sluggish sales, buyers can readily force prices down, citing sluggish sales as the reason, because they know that the industry has to move its product. And sales personnel have little choice but to lower the asking price, as they are under tremendous pressure to get the crop off the tree and out of the packinghouse. But-retail prices at the supermarket don't go down, do they?
Fuel and energy costs may also be involved, especially as they relate to transportation, distribution and storage. In other words, if retail prices remain unchanged, but the cost from packinghouse to retailer increases, then buyers have to either lower their profit margin or pay less for the product. Even non-mental giants can figure which of those options they will choose.
No easy answers, but then the questions weren't easy, either. Hopefully, the situation will not continue into the future, or citrus supply will certainly decrease as growers are forced out of business. The survivors won't be much better off, however, as trade agreements and offshore production will keep supplies higher than demand.
THE GRAPEFRUIT INTERACTION-
Back in 1996, I reported on some Canadian research showing increased absorption of some medications in people who also consume grapefruit-fresh or juice. Lots of research into this phenomenon has been and is still being conducted. Aside from adding to the list of medications, the research has found that something in grapefruit, whether naringen or other component(s), inhibits an important enzyme known as CYP3A4.
Basically, CYP3A4 attacks a number of medications, breaking them down into components that are eliminated rather than absorbed. As a consequence, the prescribed dosage of a medication which is affected by the enzyme must be increased substantially to assure that the needed amount is absorbed. While I do not know for certain, it is plausible that the prescribed dosage was determined in clinical trials-which would account for differences among people and still provide appropriate safeguards.
So, grapefruit inhibits the enzyme, thereby resulting in significantly higher-than-intended absorption of such medications. Some reports show increases by 300 to 500 percent, some far more. For clarification, that is percent, not times-in other words, a 300 percent increase is the same as three times as much, not 300 times as much. Some medications now state that users should avoid all grapefruit consumption.
The medications include several heart/blood pressure drugs, antihistamines (including Claritin), a transplant drug, and three of the four major cholesterol-lowering drugs (the exception is Pravachol). Grapefruit also increases absorption of caffeine, one form of estrogen and an anticonvulsant. Potential problems (i.e., not fully documented as yet) include an anti-clotting agent, the heartburn medicine Propulsid (cisapride), a couple of AIDS drugs and others. Viagra is also metabolized by the CYP3A4 enzyme, so it may also be impacted. The extent and clinical significance of these "potential problem" interactions awaits further research.
One would hope that, ultimately, pharmaceutical companies could safely recommend lower dosages for grapefruit lovers, especially in light of the tremendous benefits now being attributed to grapefruit, but I wouldn't count on it. In any case, if you are concerned about possible interactions with grapefruit, always check with your physician. In case he or she doesn't know, go on the web to healthcentral.com, type "grapefruit" in the "Search for" box, click "Go" and you should get at least 118 separate entries. Scroll through them to your heart's delight-I opened only those dated since late 2000, and quit well shy of half the entries.
As a final irony, grapefruit, among other fruits and vegetables, is so critical in the prevention of many of the health problems that afflict us today-yet can cause complications in the medicinal treatment of those problems. And for the chemophobes among us, most of today's medications are man-made, synthetic chemicals.
Just as we were becoming convinced that 'April showers' is a myth, much of the Valley was blessed with significant rainfall. I still haven't decided if the rains were late Onionfest or early Cinco de Mayo, but those whose fields and groves were under these rains are much appreciative. Not everybody got rains, but Cinco de Mayo weekend still holds a little promise for rain.
?Tis the season when lake levels really drop as growers actively irrigate everything from cane to vegetables, with citrus, cotton, corn, grain, pastures and others in between. Drawdown has slowed because of the rains, but will continue through the summer.
Inflows into the reservoirs do not appear to have been significant. Without inflows, especially of the 50-50 waters, it will be increasingly difficult for Mexico to achieve its promised transfer of water by either July or September.
On a side note, producers along the river in Tamaulipas are suing the government for millions as a consequence of not having been provided with irrigation water over the last couple of years. Without irrigation water, those growers simply could not plant. It is their position that the government is responsible, since it is a governmental agency or commission which is supposed to deliver such water and it was a governmental decision to transfer existing water and 50-50 water to US ownership in partial repayment of Mexico's water debt.
In the hopes that next season will be better, growers are closely monitoring citrus rust mite populations. With the recent rains, unchecked populations could reach damaging levels in short order. Other pests are mostly inconsequential at the moment, but continued, regular monitoring is essential to being able to suppress outbreaks.
Fruit set is still in progress, and will be through about May 20th. As a consequence of the heavy bloom, the orchard floor is littered with pea-sized to jawbreaker-sized fruit. Thanks to the rain and/or irrigation, most of the fruit drop has already occurred.
If you opted for split applications of fertilizer in an attempt to ameliorate alternate bearing, now is the time to closely monitor fruit set to determine if the orchard is in an "on" or an "off" year. If set is "off", it makes little sense to apply the balance of the fertilizer this season. Given the overall increase in grapefruit and Marrs orange production in the 2000-01 season just ending, many groves should be "off" this season. And speaking of ending, it still looks like this season will run well into June.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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