January, 2009       

VOL. 23, NO. 1                                                                             





Harvest and Utilization

From the TVCC Weekly Utilization Report for December 29, 2008, a couple of quick calculations indicate that the total utilization for grapefruit was down 17.8 percent from the same time last season.  Total orange utilization was down only 3.0 percent for the same period.  Total utilization is basically how much fruit has been packed and sold or sent to processing; it does not include fruit that was in the packinghouse at that time, whether in degreening rooms, cold rooms or on the floor.

That being noted, what’s the status on fresh utilization? All fresh grapefruit (domestic, export and local use) was down 13.4 percent from the same time last season, while oranges were up 3.6 percent.  Overall, fresh utilization was down 8.2 percent for the year end.

The economy is the favorite culprit responsible for the falloff in sales, though other factors cannot be overlooked.  Fewer disposable dollars leads to reduced demand which is followed in turn by reduced prices in an effort to stimulate demand.  Some of the retail prices that we see from time to time seem to be pretty high, given recent fob prices.

If you are sufficiently curious to do the math, the simplest I can make it is that a carton of size 40 Texas Rio Star grapefruit contains 40 grapefruits weighing about a pound apiece.  If the shipper gets $10 for the carton, that’s 25 cents per pound and/or per fruit (you can do the same math for other sizes, assuming 40 pounds of fruit per carton equivalent).  The difference between that and the price at retail includes freight from the Valley, the associated costs of the retailer and a margin of profit.  I don’t claim to know these latter costs, but I can’t help but wonder when the price at retail is significantly more than double the fob price.

Current Situation

No serious cold weather has occurred this season, which is always a relief to both growers and their insurers.  The shorter days of winter and the generally cooler weather have resulted in pretty good fruit color on the tree, so de-greening rooms are more likely being used for temporary storage than for de-greening.

Rain has amounted to no more than sporadic drizzle from time to time; totals are a little hard to measure, since half a tenth here and a trace there just don’t add up to much to pour out of the rain gauge. In other words, irrigation has been ongoing since the end of the rainy season back in October.

Petroleum prices have plummeted since the extraordinary highs of last summer, which means that the prices of fertilizer materials are moving back down into affordable ranges.  Many growers accustomed to fertilizing in the fall have delayed application in the hopes of price decreases.  While I doubt that anyone can predict what the prices will be like over the next couple of months, it is about time to bite the bullet and get the fertilizer ordered and applied, as we really don’t want to wait until March to fertilize.

Similarly, it is hoped that other production inputs that have a basis in the price of oil are also dropping.  With the exception of growers who routinely use Temik pre-bloom, most growers would be looking at the middle of March to about the middle of April to apply post-bloom pesticides.

Greening Update

There’s nothing new on this front; nothing has been found in Texas, while the folks over in Louisiana are actively checking for the disease in the area of the original three finds as well as throughout the state where citrus is grown either commercially or in home landscapes.

The Texas Task Force on Greening and Psyllids is scheduled for a day-and-a-half meeting at the Citrus Center this week to finalize our plans for dealing with both the insect and the disease it vectors under whatever scenario that we can envision.  This effort follows two fairly long conference call sessions of the Task Force members during November and December. 

Florida growers, of course, are still trying to keep ahead of the disease with intensive grove surveying and tree removal, but their efforts are somewhat hampered by so-called abandoned groves which can serve as a reservoir of both the disease and the psyllid vector.  Meanwhile, the roughly $20 million that was offered for competitive grants to research various aspects of the problem should begin to be awarded to the selected researchers in the near future, as the National Academy of Sciences has completed its review of the proposals and recommended those for funding.

Texas Citrus Fiesta Youth Show

The annual Texas Citrus Fiesta is coming up toward the end of the month.  As you should know, there is a Youth Show that features exhibits of 50 kinds and varieties of citrus.  The exhibits are competitive, as most youth who enter exhibits are hoping for first places and grand/reserve champion entries.  There is no small amount of money involved for winning entries, but there are also citrus identification and citrus judging contests for individual and team bragging rights.

The Youth Show will be on January 30-31, so a few growers can expect kids to be asking permission to enter your groves and select fruit for the exhibits.  Each exhibit consists of four fruits, and all must be cut, not pulled, from the tree, as Youth Show rules require that the button still be attached to the fruit, or the entry will be eliminated.  The more serious kids will generally spend more time looking for the perfect fruit before they cut it from the tree, while others won’t work that hard at it. 

If someone asks permission of you, please bear in mind that before you direct them to the grove, if you know that the block has one or more trees of a different variety, point out where those trees are.  At the judging of entries, one fruit in each exhibit is cut for identification; if the cut fruit is a different variety than stated on the entry card, that entry is disqualified.  The kids really don’t have the opportunity to cut your fruit to verify the variety, so they have to rely on what you tell them is in the grove.

The exhibits are closed to the public during the judging process and during the contests the next morning, but will open soon after the contests end on Saturday morning.  If you have never been, you really should make the effort to go by the Youth Exhibits on Saturday afternoon.  Oh, and if you don’t agree with the placings as determined by the judges, you should know that the judging is done by four inspectors from the Fruit Inspection Service and by four knowledgeable citrus people, mostly from the Citrus Center and Extension, often with one or more growers.

Finally, if you don’t agree with the placings, check out the rules at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/citrus/fiesta/rules.htm  before complaining.  Cleanliness of the fruit is the first criterion, followed in order by uniformity, uniformity and uniformity.   


Professor & Extension Horticulturist
2401 East Highway 83
Weslaco TX 78596


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