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Texas citrus industry sees at least $230 million in losses due to February’s winter storm

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Millions in dollars' worth of grapefruit litter grove floors following last month's cold snap. - NINA RANGEL
  • Nina Rangel
  • Millions in dollars' worth of grapefruit litter grove floors following last month's cold snap.
Citrus lovers beware: grapefruit prices are about to skyrocket.

Preliminary data from economists with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service shows that last month’s devastating winter storm caused at least $230 million in damage to the state’s citrus industry. Many growers will likely lose next year’s crop as well.

Texas is the third-largest U.S. citrus producer behind Florida and California. Thousands of groves are located in and around South Texas' Rio Grande Valley.

“The data we used to determine these agricultural losses came from farmers, ranchers and other commercial producers throughout the state as well as others involved in or supporting production agriculture in Texas,” Mark Waller, associate head of Texas A&M University’s Department of Agricultural Economics, told the Glen Rose Reporter.

Millions in dollars' worth of grapefruit litter grove floors following last month's cold snap. - NINA RANGEL
  • Nina Rangel
  • Millions in dollars' worth of grapefruit litter grove floors following last month's cold snap.
Waller told the Reporter that agency economists expect more losses as a long-term effect of the cold snap that swept the state — Texas’ second-worst freeze since 1899.

The South Texas citrus industry suffered severe losses from the combination of excessively low temperatures and wind during the storm. If temperatures drop below 28 degrees Fahrenheit for more than five hours, citrus fruits begin to freeze inside and can't be taken to market.

Roughly 200 acres of lemons and limes were completely destroyed, and industry reports estimate that nearly all of the Valencia orange crop will be lost, as the varietal requires a late-season harvest, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service officials told the Reporter. About half of the state’s grapefruit crop was still on the trees when the storm blew in, which will likely affect grapefruit availability and prices in the future.

A small silver lining: orange prices will likely remain unchanged, due to large supplies available from Florida and California, according to the report.

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