USDA Continues to Place Valley Groves on Quarantine Due to Pest
NEAR LA FERIA - The Mexican fruit fly outbreak continues to wreak havoc among Rio Grande Valley citrus growers.
Many local growers said they been forced to shut down their groves as the USDA tries to stop the pest’s spread
Once the USDA finds a pregnant fly or larva, they shut down and quarantine a zone causing growers to lose thousands. Federal officials said poor maintenance by residential citrus growers is also partially to blame.
Citrus grower Fred Karle said two of his groves are currently under quarantine for the Mexican fruit fly. He said there isn’t much he can do with the fruit after it’s placed under isolation.
In such situations, the UDSA will usually allow growers to juice their fruit. However, Karle said the option is just as bad as not harvesting at all.
“The juice has no value to the grower. Very little return, if any, to the grower,” he said.
According to Karle, it roughly costs $1,500 per acre to maintain a grove. If the grove is shut down, he said he loses his investment and any other possible revenue his harvest carries.
“On a good year, a grapefruit grove can pay $2,000, $3,000 and sometimes $4,000 an acre when there’s a good size and good quality fruit,” he said.
The citrus grower said it’s not the first time the agency closed down his grove. Karle said he lost 20 acres and was left with no option other than juicing in the past.
But he isn’t alone. USDA has quarantined dozens of groves in the Valley. Karle said he feels the fly continues to have a big impact on the amount of citrus being shipped locally.
“Quarantines are all over the Valley, one way or the other. A lot of them show up in residential areas,” he said.
According to the USDA, the reason the fly spreads so easily is due to people in residential areas not properly taking care of their trees. They said it allows the fruit fly to also spread to commercial groves.
Karle said all he can do for now is to continue spraying his groves.
The USDA and the Texas Department of Agriculture urged citrus tree owners to properly maintain their harvest. The warning includes anyone with grapefruit, lemon, lime or orange trees in their backyard.
The agency added people should throw away any fruit left in the tree or on the ground by the end of April.
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