JULY, 2010      

VOL. 24, NO. 7                                                                             





Alex Inbound

As this newsletter was being finalized, Hurricane Alex is about160 miles east of La Pesca, Tamaulipas, moving WNW at 9 mph with sustained winds of 80 mph.  Present models have Alex intensifying to a Category 2 hurricane about the time of landfall, which is expected to occur around midnight tonight (Wednesday) just north of La Pesca, which is about 150 miles south of Brownsville.  This track will put the Valley on the northern side of the storm, which is traditionally the wetter side and the side of higher storm surges.  Strong winds and heavy rains are likely Valley-wide into Thursday.   

At 9:00 this morning, Weslaco has already received 2.5 inches of rain, skies are classically grey, with steady winds from the ENE.   As sung in Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising“, “I hear hurricanes ablowin’...”

Season Summary

It took a little longer than expected to finish the 2009-10 season, but the Final Utilization Report from TVCC provides a look back at the season and an opportunity to compare it to prior years.  Fresh grapefruit utilization was up about 3.0 percent over the prior year, while early oranges were about even (up less than 1.0 percent).  Navels were up nearly 24 percent and Valencias jumped by 89.3 percent.

In terms of processed fruit, grapefruit declined by 5.3 percent, earlys and navels combined were up 3.5 percent, but Valencias were down 77.4 percent.  Total processed fruit declined by 5.2 percent, although total fruit production increased by 2.0 percent.

What it sums up to is that total production was up a little, as was fresh shipment of all categories, but processed fruit volume was down.  Because there were virtually no Valencias for processing, TCX had to purchase an extraordinarily high amount of Valencia solids from Mexico in order to blend with the (mostly) Marrs solids to make a saleable pack.  If you haven’t been attuned to the juice market, the price of Valencia solids has been running in the range of $1.30 to $1.50 per pound solids most of the season.

Juice Pool Closing 101

There has been a lot of interest in the 2008-09 grapefruit juice pool closing, but there seems to be a great deal of confusion about the numbers.  I was asked to try to explain the process so that growers might have a better understanding.  Several factors impact just how much of the pool closing price you actually receive as a grower.

First of all, when a packinghouse delivered grapefruit to TCX during the 2008-09 season, the fruit was weighed, the volume of culls was subtracted and the tonnage of sound fruit was paid a spot price of $40 per ton, less a service fee of $7.26 per ton.  When grapefruit harvest was completed in 2009, TCX rebated $0.49 per ton of the service fee as a volume discount, thereby resulting in a final service fee of $6.77. 

Thus, by mid-2009, TCX had paid to packinghouses a total of $33.23 per ton. From a grower perspective at that time, you were in the hole on your juice fruit, because the packinghouse received only $33.23 per ton, which was less than pick and haul—which probably was in the $40 plus range

In addition, not all of your juice fruit went to TCX—in fact, only about 84 percent of the total juice grapefruit in 2008-09 was delivered to TCX; the balance was processed elsewhere and is not the subject of this analysis.

Near the end of April, 2010, TCX had sold all of the 2008-09 grapefruit juice, concentrate, and by-products, and calculated a pool closing price.  That pool closing price is a value-added price, not simply a pounds solids per ton times price per pound solids, since a lot of the juice is reconstituted and sold single strength, some is sold as NFC, some is blended, et cetera. Too, the closing price also includes all by-products.

Certainly, the price per pounds solids of grapefruit juice impacts the value of pool closing, but you should not expect that the market prices that have prevailed since January, 2010, to translate into a much higher pool closing price.  Why not?  The answer is simply that the 2008-09 grapefruit juice was being sold over the entire period from approximately January of 2009 to April of 2010—in part because of the need to blend early season juice (which is of lower overall quality) with carryover, higher quality juice from the prior season.  In other words, some late 2007-08 juice was blended with early 2008-09 juice and some late 2008-09 juice was carried over to blend with early 2009-10 juice. 

The point is that the 2008-09 juice was being marketed over approximately 16 months, but the market price runup occurred in only the last three or four months of the pool.  The recent higher market price of grapefruit juice is reflected in new contracts for future delivery (the 2009-10 pool), but the lag time between contract signing and consummation of the sale can be 12 months. Sorry, folks, but that’s the way it is.

Consequently, at pool closing in mid-June, the value-added price of the 2008-09 grapefruit juice pool was calculated to be $80.70 per ton, less the service fee plus the volume rebate, which brought the final down to $73.93.  Since the spot price, service fee and volume rebate were accounted for in 2008-09, the checks that went out to packinghouses in mid-June were for $40.70 per ton.

Hopefully, you now understand the process sufficiently that you can figure the value of your juice grapefruit in relation to pool closing price.  Any difference is a matter between you and your packinghouse and the contract you have (or not) with the packinghouse.

Greening in North Texas—Again

APHIS-SITC announced the seizure of kaffir lime leaves on June 3 at an Asian market in Garland, TX.  The leaves were tested by a Kansas lab and found to be positive for Asian citrus canker and Asian citrus greening, which results were confirmed by the APHIS lab in Beltsville, MD.  The kaffir lime leaves were reportedly shipped from Florida.  SITC indicates that this is the second time the market has had kaffir lime leaves seized although the prior seizure tested negative for canker and greening.

You might recall a similar incident involving kaffir lime leaves from Florida discovered and seized in Dallas and the Panhandle a couple of years ago by the SITC group.  Samples of some of those leaves also tested positive for greening.

Some people just don’t get it—in thinking only of their own selfish desires, they put an entire industry at risk, as well as the dooryard/patio trees of tens of thousands of Texans. 

It would seem that the demand for kaffir lime leaves in predominantly Asian markets in Texas is sufficiently high that some venturous grower in the Valley would devote the resources to plant enough trees to provide a safe source.  Kaffir lime is available here and a sufficient number of trees could be planted to meet the demand for leaves in relatively short order. 

An Extension client in the Austin area told me a couple of years ago that he was selling kaffir lime leaves from his patio tree for $40 per pound fresh weight.  I don’t know the current price nor do I know how many pounds of leaves could be reasonably and sustainably harvested per tree, but I suspect that that information is available somewhere online if one took the time to search for it.

Citrus Black Spot in Hendry County

On May 21, APHIS confirmed citrus black spot disease in a Valencia orange orchard in Hendry County, FL.  This detection is about 14 miles from the Collier County Valencia grove where the first detection had been announced a month or so earlier.

Medfly Outbreak

On June 15, Florida Department of Agriculture officials confirmed the identification of wild Mediterranean fruit flies that were trapped in Boca Raton in Palm Beach County.  Since the initial detection, hundreds of additional traps have been placed in the area, and some of those traps have also captured wild medflies—a total of 43 adults and 11 larvae in cut fruit. 

All capture/detections occurred on 10 properties that are nearby, leading Federal and state agencies to believe initially that they have delimited the epicenter of the infestation.  However, additional flies have just been trapped in Del Ray Beach, about seven miles north of Boca Raton, so the trapping and treatment areas are being expanded.

Trees where the flies have been detected have already been sprayed with SpinosadR, and the soil underneath host plants has been drenched with diazinon.  In addition, 250,000 sterile males were released by air and another 10,000 were released at ground level on the 10 sites.  Sterile fly releases are expected to continue weekly until 63 days (three life cycles) after the last- trapped wild medfly.

This is the first significant medfly outbreak in Florida since the nine-county successful eradication program in 1997-98.  Medfly attacks over 250 different fruits and vegetables, including citrus and most tropical/subtropical fruits.  The medfly female oviposits eggs under the skin of the fruit, which hatch into larvae (maggots) that tunnel and feed through the fruit, totally spoiling the fruit.

Professor & Extension Horticulturist
2401 East Highway 83
Weslaco TX 78596



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