By Shala Gean

Plump fruit hangs from the tree. Workers pick it at peak freshness. And it’s ready to ship straight to a grocery store near you.

It’s harvest season for citrus in the Rio Grande Valley. But it’s not all roses for the growers.

Theft is on the rise. It’s always an issue growers face, but it’s worse this year.

Why?

Hurricane Irma dealt an unprecedented blow to Florida’s citrus crop. That sparked an increase in price for Texas citrus, which has led to more thefts in the Valley.

Some take it by the truckload. Others by the bag. Most thefts occur at night when the groves are empty of workers. Some of the stolen fruit is carried to roadside stands and flea markets as far away as Laredo and San Antonio.

Policing groves is difficult, because many growers have dozens of groves scattered across several locations.

But one thing is for sure—thieves are squeezing profits from hard working farmers.

They spend a lot of money and time caring for the crop, and it takes months of preparation.

While it can be tempting to pick a juicy orange off a roadside grove, remember it’s also considered theft.

You don’t want anyone to steal your hard work, right? Growers feel the same.

And they’re asking for your help. If you’re in the Valley, report any suspicious activity to authorities.

If you’re not in the Valley, purchase some Texas citrus and think about the farmers who grow the tasty fruit!

The industry is trying to battle the mounting problem with a proof of ownership program. The voluntary buyer-seller plan proves that the fruit was purchased legally.

Texas is the third-biggest citrus growing state in the country after Florida and California.

Shala Watson

Staff Writer

I was born and raised in the East Texas Pineywoods. I don’t have a traditional agricultural background. But I’m inspired by the hard working men and women who produce our food and fiber. I’m a small town girl just trying to bring a fresh perspective to ag journalism.

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