As the Florida Citrus industry seeks consideration for federal emergency funding, a US Department of Agriculture forecast has confirmed a continuing decline in production due to Hurricane Irma’s impact on this season’s crop.
The report predicts Florida Orange production for 2017/18 will come in at 50m boxes of oranges, a 27 per cent decrease over last season, while Florida Grapefruit is expected to produce 4.65m boxes, a decrease of 40 per cent.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think this will be the last decrease we see," said Shannon Shepp, executive director at the Florida Department of Citrus. "Hurricane Irma had widespread impact on our industry and growers are still trying to pick up the pieces. High winds and flooding rains damaged already weakened trees making it more difficult to hold on to the fruit that’s left.
“Luckily, Florida Citrus growers are a resilient group of hardworking individuals and I know they’ll find a way to carry on like they always do," she added.
Florida growers reported 30 to 70 per cent crop loss after Hurricane Irma’s landfall on 10 September, with the southwest region of the state receiving the most damage.
The hurricane uprooted trees and left many groves sitting in standing water for up to three weeks, potentially damaging the root systems.
In October, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced that Florida citrus sustained more than US$760m in damages due to Hurricane Irma – although those numbers are expected to grow as the season continues.