Florida’s citrus industry continues to suffer nearly six months after Hurricane Irma devastated the current season’s citrus crop.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released on Thursday its monthly citrus crop forecast for the 2017-2018 season. The USDA estimates the current crop will yield 45 million boxes. That’s down nine million boxes than the 54 million boxes forecast at the beginning of the season. It represents a drop of more than 80 percent in citrus production since the industry’s peak in the 1997-1998 season when 244 million boxes were harvested.
“Florida’s citrus growers are still recovering from Hurricane Irma’s unprecedented damage, which today’s forecast shows is still unfolding in many groves six months later,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. “Thankfully, Congress recently provided more than $2.3 billion for agricultural assistance, a critical first step to finally getting Florida’s growers long-awaited and desperately needed relief.”
Irma ripped through the Florida back in September making two landfalls–one in the Keys and the other in the Naples area–before moving up the state’s west coast, impacting just about the entire state.
The storm caused more than an estimated $2 billion in damage to Florida agriculture, $760 of that specifically to citrus. Irma’s winds, which reached up to 120 miles per hour tore citrus from tree limbs and its heavy rains flooded orchards causing widespread damage to trees.
A survey of growers conducted by the Florida Citrus Mutual shortly after Irma hit showed total fruit loss at more than 65 percent. Some growers in southwest Florida reported 100 percent fruit loss.
Putnam, Gov. Rick Scott and members of Florida’s Congressional Delegation spent months fighting for a federal disaster relief package for the state’s agriculture industry. A $2.3 billion dollar relief package was passed by Congress in early February.
“I will continue to work with the leadership of the USDA, Governor Scott, our congressional delegation and industry representatives to get our growers the relief they need to fully recover,” Putnam said.