Oranges make their play in Texas citrus business

11/13/2013 03:37:00 PM
Jim Offner

Courtesy South Tex Organics LCFruit enters the processing line at South Tex Organics LC in Mission, Texas. Although the company’s fruit production is about 85% grapefruit, South Tex Organics has ventured into other products like lemons and oranges.Texas has carved a niche in the citrus business with grapefruit, but the Rio Grande Valley also ventures into orange production.

The winter citrus deal in the Rio Grande Valley is roughly 85% grapefruit, with oranges comprising nearly all the rest of production, grower-shippers say.

Limes, tangerines, lemons and other items are too risky for the region, they say.

“Oranges and grapefruit are insured crops here in South Texas, so as long as you have them insured, you’re always going to have volume,” said Trent Bishop, vice president of sales for Mission, Texas-based Lone Star Citrus Growers.

Those two are Lone Star’s focus, Bishop said.

That’s not to say others don’t dabble in other products to one degree or another, he said.

“But without being able to insure them against freeze, that’s the limiting factor,” he said.

There has been some limited growth in limes, said Bret Erickson, president of the Texas International Produce Association, Mission.

“I don’t particularly foresee that as really taking off, though,” he said.

There also is talk of producing clementines in the region, although nothing of any substantial volume has materialized, Erickson said.

Mission-based South Tex Organics LC has ventured outside the standard twin-product balance, said Dennis Holbrook, president.

The company offers midseason and early variety oranges, as well as late season valencias,” Holbrook said.

“We’ve got a really nice set of oranges this year, and our production is up,” he said.

The company has a small meyer lemon orchard too, Holbrook said.

Texas has built a strong reputation for its ruby red grapefruit, but other items out of the region also are attracting followings, Holbrook said.

“Yeah, I think there’s opportunity there, to be honest with you,” he said.

Holbrook said his company’s production is about 85% grapefruit.

There’s a strong market for South Tex Organics’ oranges in California, but quarantine issues have kept the product out of the Golden State of late, Holbrook said.

“We’ve kind of missed not having that market there for our oranges, so it has kind of forced us to seek out new opportunities for oranges,” Holbrook said.

Texas oranges are distinct from their competitors from California, Holbrook said.

“Our oranges don’t have that same look as a California orange that looks like it popped out of a little mold,” he said.

Texas oranges offer “a little rougher exterior look” caused by wind scarring from steady breezes blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico, he said.

“But in general we raise a good-quality orange that will match up with anyone’s,” Holbrook said, noting “it’s what’s on the inside that matters.”

Paramount Citrus, a Delano, Calif.-based grower-shipper that moved into Texas late in 2012 and is working its first full season in the Rio Grande Valley, offers a Texas orange program too, said David Krause, president

“We have a fairly significant orange program down there that came with the deal, and we rather like it,” he said.

Krause described Paramount’s Texas orange program as “somewhat of a niche-type product.”

Grapefruit and other citrus items comprise about half of Paramount’s Texas production, Krause said.

“It’s a very important element of this whole business down there, and we’ll continue with that,” he said.



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