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Lake Wales, Florida

Hunt Bros. citrus packinghouse will be closing

The Hunt Bros. citrus packinghouse in Lake Wales will close for good at the end of this season, primarily due to the impacts of Hurricane Irma on company groves in 2017. The family-owned packinghouse opened in 1928.

Frank Hunt III, an owner, discussed the closing in an April 22 letter to employees: β€œIt was certainly our desire to keep it (the packinghouse) going. Prior to Hurricane Irma, we were surviving and perhaps even thriving. In fact, in the 2016–17 season we had the second most shipments of all Florida packinghouses. With Irma, the packinghouse lost its fruit supply overnight."

"We have held on the last 5 years hoping the trees would bounce back, but unfortunately, they are crashing and must be replanted. That means possibly a decade before supplies will return to pre-Irma levels. To fund the replanting, it has been necessary for Hunt Bros. to sell nearly 1,000 acres of grove, further reducing our fruit supply. The combination of reduced overall fruit supply and the loss of most non-Valencia varieties has made continuing the packinghouse unsustainable. ... It is my expectation that we will pack our last carton on May 6.”

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