Paramount entry seen as game-changer in Rio Grande Valley - The Packer

Paramount entry seen as game-changer in Rio Grande Valley

11/12/2013 04:37:00 PM
Jim Offner

Courtesy Paramount CitrusAn orchard at one of Paramount Citrus' new holdings in South Texas. The company recently acquired Healds Valley Farms Inc. in Edinburgh and Rio Queen Inc. in Mission.A major California-based citrus grower-shipper moved into Texas last year, just in time for Christmas.

Even competitors saw the arrival of Paramount Citrus as a gift to the Rio Grande Valley’s citrus business.

“We welcome Paramount. We’ve been friends with them prior to them coming to Texas, and they’re going to be good for our industry, just as Rio Queen Citrus was,” said Trent Bishop, vice president of sales for Mission, Texas-based Lone Star Citrus Growers.

In a year’s time, Paramount’s citrus acreage holdings have jumped from zero to about 10,000, excluding production from company-affiliated growers, according to David Krause, president.

Bret Erickson, president of the Texas International Produce Association, Mission, estimates that Paramount now accounts for 60% to 70% of Texas’ commercial citrus acreage.

There still are enough customers to keep all industry participants busy, Bishop said.

Erickson agreed.

“It’s been a shot in the arm for the citrus industry here, and we’re already seeing acres start to climb,” he said.

The arrival of Paramount, which bought Edinburg, Texas-based Healds Valley Farms Inc. in December 2012 and then followed up by purchasing Mission-based Rio Queen Inc. the following spring couldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone in the valley, Bishop said.

“The Rio Grande Valley has been largely consolidating for the last 25 years, anyway,” he said.

Bishop said the number of citrus grower-shippers in the valley has shrunk from around 25 two decades ago to just a few today.

The presence of Paramount likely will provide a marketing boost to everyone in the region’s citrus business, Bishop said.

“I know Paramount is going to do some good marketing for Texas grapefruit, which is good for our industry,” he said.

Rick Burnes heads Paramount’s Texas operations as vice president for domestic operations in Texas.

The company bases its Texas operations at the former Rio Queen facility.

Ray Prewett, president of the Mission-based Texas Citrus Mutual, said Paramount’s presence has been a positive development.

“It’s beneficial to have their presence and expertise in production and marketing in the area, because it raises the profile of Texas grapefruit even more,” Prewett said.

Krause said the company’s most daunting challenge in its first year in Texas has been to meld its acquisitions into one cohesive operation that works with its California business.

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