HOUMA, La. — With the first cool front of the fall, many people will start looking for the delicious Louisiana citrus.It appears fruit will be available, but not at the level that growers had hoped.
Terry Breaux, a citrus grower in Terrebonne Parish, said he’s expecting about half of what he would normally produce from his nearly 1,000-tree grove.
“We will have some satsumas, but they really aren’t looking that good right now. But that is not the case with the navel oranges,” he said. “The navels are really looking good right now and are already starting to sweeten up.”
Breaux said some of the growers he knows don’t have much of a satsuma crop this year, but their navels look good.
Now is the time for satsumas to really start coming in, but a little cooler weather would be helpful, Breaux said.
“Normally, about the second week in October we start getting ready,” he said. “We usually have satsumas for Halloween, and the navels are normally coming in by Thanksgiving.”
This year both seem to be staying green a little longer than usual, but this is really not a problem, Breaux said.
LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Barton Joffrion mentioned a common misconception about when satsumas are ready.
“Most people think the fruit has to be orange before it’s ripe and ready to eat. But that is not the case,” he said. “They actually have to be tested by the Department of Ag before they are certified ready for the market.”
Joffrion said it’s not uncommon for satsumas to still be completely green, yet sweet enough to be sold.
The number of growers in Louisiana has been on the decline in recent years due to farmers getting older and their families not being interested in the industry, Joffrion said.
“A lot of our bigger producers are gone now, and that is mainly due to development of subdivisions on some of the best land,” he said.
Breaux’s operation is handled by himself and family members. He said when it’s time to work he makes a few phone calls, and they have a big citrus-washing party at his shed.
He expects to have fruit through Christmas and said he takes off his full-time job the first week in February to strip the trees and sell the remaining fruit at a reduced price.
Breaux said he’s been lucky that he hasn’t experienced a number of the diseases such as citrus greening that has plagued growers in other parishes.
“I guess we have just been lucky or maybe it’s because there is not a lot of citrus in the parish and that’s helping us with disease,” he said.
In addition to satsumas and navels, Breaux also grows lemons and kumquats.
Joffrion said citrus production is viable in most areas south of Interstate 10, and he is now seeing production in more southwestern parishes such as Vermilion.