Consumers will find an abundance of high quality Louisiana-grown citrus this year, according to growers and industry observers.
“It’s the best crop I’ve ever had,” said Jim Terry of Franklin. “But I don’t know what I’m going to do with it.” Terry, who has about 300 satsuma trees on four acres, said because of last year’s hurricanes, he’s lost track of the wholesalers he previously sold to. So he has to sell most of his crop fresh at his farm.
The retired aerial applicator said the storm surge from Hurricane Rita didn’t quite reach his trees. Jerry Gisclair of Bayou Portuguese Farm in Larose lost more than 60 percent of his navel oranges last year as a result of Hurricane Katrina, but his satsumas survived.
“Last year, people thought the satsuma crop was lost more than it was,” said Gisclair, who has 3,000 trees on 25 acres and sells fruit in Hammond, Ponchatoula and Baton Rouge. “This year, the crop will be good.”
Bobby Fletcher, LSU AgCenter county agent in Lafourche Parish, said citrus growers in Terrebonne, Lafourche and St. Mary parishes number 30 to 35 and grow about 155 acres of citrus.
Farther east in Plaquemines Parish, the crop outlook is almost as good, but the number of growers and acres in trees has diminished considerably, said Alan Vaughn, county agent in Plaquemines Parish.
Before Hurricane Katrina, Plaquemines Parish had about 1,000 acres of citrus with 200 growers. Half the acreage was lost, and half of the growers are without trees in the area south of Port Sulphur, Vaughn said.
“The remaining crop is not 100 percent because the trees were stressed,” he said.
“Growers will harvest probably 80 percent of what they would have before the storm.”
Joe Ranatza of Belle Chasse agreed that the southern portion of the parish doesn’t have trees or fruit to sell this year. Ranatza has 3,800 trees equally divided between satsumas and navel oranges. He has already started harvesting early varieties of satsumas and will move to later maturing varieties as the season progresses.
(This article was published in the fall 2006 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)