Our Views: Citrus crop under strain

One of the small pleasures of winter in south Louisiana is the annual harvest of the local citrus crop. We love the yearly arrival of oranges, satsumas and other citrus crops. They’re a burst of liquid sunshine on cold, gray days.

The bad news, though, is that the Louisiana citrus industry is under renewed stress this year. The gross farm value of the Louisiana citrus crop was $5.5 million in 2011, the latest year for which figures are available, according to the LSU Ag Center. That’s a modest figure when compared to more high-profile Louisiana crops, such as soybean and sugar cane.

But the state’s already small citrus industry seems destined to get even smaller, according to Ag Center officials. Damage to the industry by Hurricane Isaac will be felt for years to come, Ag Center experts say. About 200 of the 530 acres of citrus in Plaquemines Parish, mainly on the east side, were flooded as a result of the storm. Recovery — if recovery happens at all — will take years.

That sad reality promises to make Louisiana citrus a rarer treat. Even so, we can think of no real substitute for the citrus grown and harvested locally. Here’s hoping for brighter days for the citrus farmers who bring this sweet fruit to our dinner tables.