Health Care

"Very significant damage" to Florida citrus

Big losses for Florida citrus According to Andrew Meadows, a spokesman for Lakeland-base Florida Citrus Mutual, Irma caused widespread damage across the Florida citrus-growing region. "Losses are less going north".

The Commodity Weather Group said Florida could suffer a 10 percent loss in oranges and up to a 30 percent loss of its grapefruit harvest.

In an interview Wednesday, Widenor said CWG didn't revise its initial estimates, but he added that "the ground crews will have a much better feel for it".

"The damage estimates vary, depending on the area of the state hit".

"As a result, the tomato crop is expected to be light at the first part of November, but volume should build and we expect a solid December", she said. Strawberry growers expect to recover quickly and harvest on time, she said.

There's still no official reports of economic loss totals from agriculture but it could surpass $100 million, as the value of Florida's citrus a year ago exceeded $1 billion.

Hendry County, which has the most citrus trees in the state, says the storm cost it 60 percent of its orange crop. The USDA is expected to release its first official citrus crop projections on 12 October, but it is questionable if it will be possible to resurvey the groves hit by Irma before this time.

"The majority of the crop is still on the tree", said Doug Bournique, executive director of the Indian River Citrus League, which represents the world's largest grapefruit growing region.

"While the full extent of the impact is still being explored, this is definitely an event with very significant damage to the Florida Citrus industry", she noted.

Southwest Florida groves appear to have taken the brunt of Irma's force as the hurricane made landfall in that area as a Category 3 storm, with sustained winds from 111 to 129 miles per hour. "Uprooted trees don't seem quite as big of a problem, which is good for growers longer-term".

More fruit losses may come in the next few weeks because nearly all of his groves are underwater in the rainfall Irma dumped on the area.

In the meantime, standing water in groves can increase the chance of disease to the roots. Therefore, this could limit produce supply for an extended period. Citrus greening disease, which cuts yields and turns fruit bitter, has blighted the crop in past years.

The hurricane dealt an unprecedented statewide blow to Florida's $10 billion iconic crop, which already had been devastated by citrus greening disease. Last year, a study by the University of Florida estimated between 80 and 90 percent of the state's citrus acreage was infected by citrus greening, which is spread primarily by an insect the size of a grain of rice.

As Irma, now classified as a tropical storm, moves inland up through the south of the United States, many coastal ports have been temporarily closed.

Florida ranks second in orange juice production to Brazil, and its grapefruit accounts for more than half of the USA production, according to the USDA.

Due to its warmer climate, the country also grows other crops including tomatoes, grapefruits, watermelons and sugar cane.

"Absolutely there was some loss, but it was not total devastation, which was what the market was basically pricing in", said Judy Ganes Chase, founder of J. Ganes Consulting LLC.



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