"Citrus Disaster" - Texas Cold Snap Means Crop Losses For Grapefruit Growers

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Feb 17, 2021 - 07:45 PM

Well, here's some more bad news for consumers who are already experiencing food price inflation - that is - the price of citrus could be ready to skyrocket amid the cold snap in Texas.

Texas is the nation's third-largest citrus-producing state behind California and Florida. Dale Murden, president of Texas Citrus Mutual, a trade group that oversees citrus growers in the state, told AccuWeather that growers were "about 50% harvested to date on grapefruit", just as the polar vortex split dumped Arctic air into the region. He said growers were "just beginning to harvest our late Valencia orange."

"Most everyone saw temps of 21 degrees for several hours," Murden said. He warns, "growers will no doubt lose some of the crop as we see some ice buildup inside the fruit." 

Murden said it only takes a few hours of temperatures below 28 degrees to freeze hanging fruit. He provided AccuWeather with pictures of frozen grapefruit trees. 

Temperatures should return to the 40s and 50 for some parts of Texas by the weekend, but after a deep freeze for several days, there are new fears of a sizeable crop loss that could materialize in the state. 

"At this time we have about 15% of our crop hanging on the trees, and that is likely lost," April Flowers of Lone Star Citrus, a grower based in Mission, Texas. 

Murden said the temperatures were so cold this week that most measures to warm citrus trees did not work. 

 "Some growers use a micro-jet irrigation system to spray their trees with water prior to the freeze because ice is insulative at 32 degrees," Flowers said, "but this type of system is expensive and not widely used."

"As for whether this cold snap will turn into a weather disaster for Texas citrus growers," Murden warned, adding that "it's still too early to tell and will likely take a few weeks after the cold snap breaks for growers to assess any damages. " 

Flowers repeated Murden's point: "The next several weeks will give us a clearer picture of the true impact of the storm." 

So in the next couple of weeks, more details will likely emerge of crop damage sustained by the latest winter blast to rock the state. This may result in a rise in citrus prices, such as grapefruit. 

Consumers are learning this year that food prices all around them are erupting.