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Hurricane Ian hits Florida as citrus growers near harvest season

Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida as a Category 4 storm and is slowly making its way through the state as a Category 1 hurricane. Yesterday, an article was published about the potential impact on citrus and vegetable crops as well as logistics challenges. More will become clear in the coming days and weeks.

Although the impact on the produce industry is unknown at this point, we do know it could be devastating. According to the University of Florida, about 175,000 acres of citrus groves were expected to be in the path of Ian and an additional 200,000 acres of other crops like vegetables were also expected to receive lots of rain and extremely strong winds. Florida’s citrus industry has been suffering for years with reduced acreage and yields due to citrus greening. Increased labor costs and competition from foreign imports have been an additional struggle for growers.

“When hurricanes hit citrus groves, it’s not always 100 percent of the fruit that will fall off the tree, but storms with stronger winds tend to drop a larger amount of fruit, especially when the storms hit later in the growing season,” says Christa Court with the University of Florida. Seasonal crops currently in the ground include over 200,000 acres of fresh market vegetables like cucumbers, bell peppers, and tomatoes.

Unfortunately, Ian’s arrival coincides with the usual timeframe for plantings of most crops in the region. In addition, citrus harvest is around the corner. Other crops that are being harvested this time of year include avocados, carambola, corn, peanuts, and sweet potatoes.

“After the storm passes, assessing the damage might not be a quick process, depending on power and telecommunication outages, limited access to farms and ranches due to flooding, and other challenges,” Court said. “The point is that each commodity, each farm, sees different impacts, even in the same area during the same weather event. It is our goal to capture as much information as we can, and that the information we collect can assist in their recovery and preparations for the next event.”

FreshPlaza will continue to share updates as they become available.

Photo: Dreamstime


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