Texas’ holiday gift fruit market has not been affected by the September and October rains that got this year’s citrus harvest off to a slow start, says Texas Cooperative Extension citrus specialist Julian Sauls.

“The gift fruit deal is not affected by the relative start date of the season, since that market is concentrated more or less during the holiday seasons,” he explains. “Too, the gift fruit shippers normally do most of their advertising during the summer months, so they already know more or less the volume of fruit they will be handling during the holiday shipping season.”

During the last two seasons, gift fruit has taken about 2.4 percent of the state’s total grapefruit and 2 percent of the orange production.

“In terms of 7/10-bushel carton equivalents — roughly 40 pounds — that would come to about 350,000 per season of the roughly 15 million carton equivalents average that the industry has produced for all uses in the last two seasons,” Sauls says.

Due to the delayed season startup, the Texas citrus industry still has not recovered to historic levels for the time of year — though it is close, Sauls says.

“A later start and even slightly lower sales do not bode well for what is estimated to be a bigger crop volume than last year. Basically, that adds up to having to continue shipping later into the spring than we would like,” he adds.

The weather continues to be a concern for the industry, as rain is forecast for the next week, which is typically one of the heaviest shipping times of the year.

“Rains, obviously, make orchards too wet for harvesting, and wet groves can take several days to dry out sufficiently for harvest operations,” Sauls says. “We just don’t need any hindrances at the current time.”

Overall projections for the 2006-2007 season include an increase in grapefruit supply by about 29 percent over last season, with oranges forecast to increase by 18 or 19 percent.

“I do not believe that will be realized, as I just don’t think there’s that much additional fruit out there. Still, if the estimate is close to actual, the total crop volume will be comparable to what was produced two seasons ago,” Sauls says.