Florida growers thrown 'lifeline'

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Carl Collen

BY CARL COLLEN

Florida growers thrown 'lifeline'

Citrus emergency loan programme could offer much-needed assistance to growers hit by Hurricane Irma

Florida growers thrown 'lifeline'

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Florida Citrus growers impacted by Hurricane Irma are eligible now for short-term, interest-free working capital loans as part of a US$25 million Florida Citrus Emergency Loan Program activated by Governor Rick Scott, aimed at helping the industry recover quickly.

The programme, which is a subset of the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program, is open to qualified citrus businesses that experienced physical and/or economic damage during the storm.

“Governor Scott did a great job of identifying the immediate need some growers are experiencing," said Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus. "This is a lifeline to get growers cash flow while we sort through insurance claims of disaster relief.

“The programme was designed to be a streamlined process for quick relief without many of the requirements other loan programmes may have," Shepp added.

The loans are intended to bridge the gap between Hurricane Irma and longer-term recovery resources, which could include federal disaster assistance.

Growers in every citrus-producing county were impacted by Hurricane Irma with losses ranging from 30 to 70 per cent, depending on the region.

Citrus groves in southwest Florida were hit the hardest with some growers reporting 100 per cent fruit loss and uprooted trees.

The USDA estimated a Florida Orange crop this season at 54m boxes, 27 per cent lower than 2016/17 - however, that number is in question, with many growers projecting even lower production this season.

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