Local Growers Filling Demand Following Hurricane Irma
MISSION – Rio Grande Valley growers are seeing some of the biggest demand for their fruit in years.
Texas Citrus Mutual says a lot of this need comes following Hurricane Irma's destruction of Florida groves over half a year ago.
"I couldn't say what voids we are filling for Florida but obviously, we are. Where they once went, they can't," says Texas Citrus Mutual President Dale Murden.
The USDA reported a decrease in Florida's citrus industry production of about one third from last year. Some of those growers are friends of Murden.
"Growers all across the state, no different than us and they are really suffering," he says.
Local growers like Murden are now picking up the slack from the hurricane, which hit seven months ago and more than 950 miles away.
"In all honesty, we have benefited from the effects of the hurricane and the greening in Florida. We're filling market voids for them. Their grapefruit production is down," said Murden.
One of the biggest increase Valley growers are seeing are in foreign exports. According to the Texas Valley Citrus Committee, the Valley has already exported around 378,000 cartons of citrus compared to the 229,000 in the last harvest.
While production and exports are up for grapefruits in the Valley, there are other costs on the rise.
"Expenses are up for us because of greening and fruit flies and other issues," says Murden.
He said despite the cost increase in maintaining groves, this is one of the best seasons in years.
"Overall, growers here are very happy," he says.
Murden says with a couple weeks left for harvest, many growers like him are preparing for the next season.
Texas Citrus Mutual is predicting an increase in demand for next season as well.