Texas citrus shippers are thinking globally more than ever.
Shippers say Asian and European markets are within their sights.
“Actually, I just had some friends from Japan in this morning, and it seems like there’s maybe a little bit of opportunities that may present themselves, said Trent Bishop, vice president of sales for Mission, Texas-based Lone Star Citrus Growers.
Bishop said he was looking to have fruit over the ocean bound for Japan by mid-November.
“Last year, we were able to export to China and Japan, and we’re looking to do more,” he said.
Lone Star hasn’t done much business in Europe, where Florida product traditionally dominates, Bishop said.
“We don’t do too much to Europe, just because Florida has a real good following there and we’re not able to match up too well, pricewise,” he said.
The Far East is a different story, though, he said.
And the opportunities don’t stop at Japan and China, he said.
“We’re also working on some protocols to get fruit into South Korea,” he said.
That won’t happen during the current season, Bishop said.
“But we’re really hopeful that we’ll be able to do that next packing season,” he said.
The scenario Bishop outlined is a familiar one across the Texas citrus industry, said Bret Erickson, president and chief executive officer of the Mission-based Texas International Produce Association.
“I know that we’re trying to work with APHIS (the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) to chase some markets that we don’t currently have access to in order to get them opened up,” Erickson said.
David Krause, president of Delano, Calif.-based Paramount Citrus, whose Texas operation is based in Mission, said his company is looking for new export markets for its Texas fruit.
“The industry has not done very much out of Texas — it’s been mostly the Florida and California guys,” he said.
Paramount is looking to expand its presence in Asia and Europe, but Europe is of particular interest as far as Texas fruit goes, Krause said.
“We’re seeing more demand in the European customers, especially as Florida struggles with its issues around supplies and disease-related,” Krause said.
Asian customers also are requesting Texas fruit, Krause said.
“Our Japanese and Pacific Rim customers are showing interest, especially around the premium nature of the deep-red grapefruit that we have coming out of South Texas,” he said.
Japan has been a prime marketing target for years, but Florida has tended to dominate there, Krause said.
That could change, though, he said.
“As Florida’s volume declines due to the disease pressures and issues, there’s some opportunity to step into that gap,” he said.
Japan is a prime export destination for the Edinburg, Texas-based Edinburg Citrus Association, said Jeffrey Arnold, salesman for the grower cooperative.
“Japan has been our No. 1 market for export and insists that Texas has the sweetest grapefruit in the world,” Arnold said.