The thousands of acres of south Texas citrus grown by the member-owners of the Edinburg Citrus Association are set and ready for a banner season if not a bumper crop. The fruit is in excellent shape and with a little rainfall should continue to size up as the season gets underway.
“The market is ready. We are getting calls every day from customers ready for our fruit,” Sales Manager Ruben Shives said in late September. “We are checking the fruit daily as there is a strong demand for Texas red grapefruit and oranges.”
The association had projected a mid-October start to the harvest, but “Brix levels are very good right now and as soon as the juice content reaches the proper levels, we’ll begin shipping,” General Manager Jeff Arnold said in late September.
Grove Care Manager Blaine Riley is in the field daily and said the fruit shows good exterior quality and cosmetic appearance. While the fruit size is typical for this time of year, all varieties will benefit from fall temperatures and hopefully some timely rains that will help the fruit size up. According to the National Weather Service, the potential exists for an El Nino weather pattern to develop in the Pacific that could bring more rainfall to south Texas and persist at least through the end of the year.
“While it’s been pretty hot and dry this summer, our growers have been irrigating and there have been some periodic rains so the crop is progressing well and more moderate fall temperatures will certainly help the fruit,” said Marketing Director Paula Fouchek. “The growers at Edinburg Citrus are pleased that the season’s start is just around the corner.”
In 1929, during the heart of the Great Depression, a group of citrus growers around Edinburg, TX, first put forth the idea of forming a collective to market their products. In June of 1932, growers from across the Rio Grande Valley turned that dream into a reality when they met and signed the first contracts that formed the Edinburg Citrus Association — now the only existing fresh citrus cooperative in the state of Texas.
During this season the association will be celebrating its 80th year in the Texas citrus industry.
“And what a history it has been, filled with vision, fortitude and passion, characteristics that are still an integral part of this company,” said Ms. Fouchek. “While there will always be challenges in any business — and we have had our share with hurricanes, freezes, floods and droughts through the years — the organization’s growers had the fortitude to meet those challenges and not only persevered but prospered.”
“We are known for our sweeter, red grapefruit,” said Mr. Arnold. “The progression of sweet, red grapefruit from the ‘Ruby Red’ found back in 1929 to the current ‘Rio Star’ has really defined the uniqueness of the fruit grown in our area and what we specialize in at ECA. Now younger trees are coming online with production and are contributing to our overall tonnage.”
Many of the association’s growers are second- and third-generation farmers, with family roots stretching back to the formative days. Together they represent thousands of acres stretching from the Gulf Coast to the western growing areas of the Rio Grande Valley.