CHICAGO - Texas, the No. 3 U.S. citrus state, faces crop losses of at least $300 million due to this week's unusual winter storm, Governor Greg Abbott said in a letter asking for assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The damage could further pressure food inflation, which is on the rise around the world due to hoarding of staple crops and supply chain disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Texas storm and resulting power outages also killed calves in the top cattle-producing state, shut down meat plants and threatened crops such as oats. Abbott cited early estimates by industry association Texas Citrus Mutual showing Texas citrus sustained approximately $305.0 million loss to the crop in Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties. Dale Murden, a grapefruit grower and president of Texas Citrus Mutual, told Reuters the estimates account for losses this year and the potential for damaged trees to cut into next year's crop. "The night it started freezing, I could cut my grapefruit open and you could see ice building up in the fruit. It was turning fruit on the trees into slush. When it starts to get 80 degrees next week, that’ll rot very rapidly and fall off onto the ground," Murden said. "Not only did I lose my remaining crop, I’m going to be severely limited on what I can produce next year," he added. Texas ranks behind Florida and California in overall U.S. citrus production but is the No. 2 grapefruit producer, according to USDA. Juan Anciso, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension horticulturist, said in a research note earlier in the week that around 80% of the state's orange crop and two-thirds of the grapefruit crop had been harvested before the storm. Even so, weather forecasting firm AccuWeather said grapefruit prices alone are expected to jump 10% in the next month because of the loss of Texas crops. Grapefruit prices were already up up 7.7 % as of Feb. 13, before the storm, from a year earlier, according to research firm Nielsen. REUTERS
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