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      Citrus growers still feeling economic impact of Texas citrus fruit shipment ban

      "Fruit couldn't get into about 20 percent of where we ship fruit," said Paul Heller, Rio Queen citrus production manager.

      He said Valley citrus growers took a big blow from the nearly two month ban on shipments of Texas citrus fruit.

      "We've been trying to push too many oranges onto too few consumers because of the ban and that's driven prices down, so it takes time for markets to stabilize again," said Heller.

      The ban was initiated because a symptom of a type of fungus, sweet orange scab, was detected in Texas back in October.

      The fungus occurs on the actual orange peel, creating blemishes on sweet oranges but doesn't affect the actual orange.

      Ray Prewett, president of Mission-based Texas Citrus Mutual said in some locations, there was no immediate ban put in effect.

      "APHIS actually came out with a preliminary rule that says if you can find fruit here that doesn't have these symptoms you can still shift them to California," said Prewett.

      Heller said citrus producers here in the valley voluntarily stopped shipping citrus to citrus producing states.

      The ban kept growers from shipping to states like California and Arizona.

      "We can't go East with our fruits because it competes with Florida so the Western markets are critical to Texas growers," said Heller.

      The ban was lifted in December.

      Heller said recent tests haven't confirmed that the fungus is present in Valley citrus, but even with the ban lifted, Heller said growers are still feeling the economic impact. "Prices will not recover to where they would have been because once prices go down, it's very hard to get prices to come back up," said Heller.