February’s winter storm had significant effects on South Texas citrus crops.
Mamoudo Sétamou, a Rio Grande Valley citrus expert, told Texas Standard that 100% of the Valencia orange crop was destroyed, as was 50% of the grapefruit crop. Sétamou is professor of agronomy and resource sciences at Texas A&M University Kingsville’s Citrus Center.
“We are estimating roughly about at least $100 million losses,” he said.
The storm will likely push many small growers out of the business because its effects are long term. Sétamou says damaged trees won’t produce as much fruit next year. Plus, smaller growers likely won’t have the resources to invest in what’s needed to protect them from future freezes.
Federal assistance could provide some relief. Sétamou expects it to come to growers but doesn’t know when. He says many growers don’t have robust insurance policies to help cover their losses.
The freeze could change the face of citrus-growing in the Valley – a tradition that stretches back to the early 1900s. There are about 28,000 acres now, but he expects many “mom and pop” growers to disappear.