More disappointing news for Florida’s citrus growers.
The latest citrus crop forecast for Florida from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows the problems caused by Hurricane Irma continue to affect the state’s citrus industry.
The forecast released Thursday estimates a drop of 50,000 boxes from April’s forecast and a decrease of 9 million boxes from the 54 million boxes that had been predicted at the start of the 2017-2018 season.
“Today’s citrus crop forecast is another reminder of the continued struggles of Florida’s iconic citrus industry since Hurricane Irma inflicted unprecedented damage last year,” state Agriculture Commissioner Andrew Putnam said.
Irma caused severe damage to the state’s citrus industry when it made landfall twice in Florida — first in the Keys and again along the southwest coast — before eventually moving up the state’s west coast.
It caused an estimated $786 million in destruction to the state’s citrus groves. The hurricane’s strong winds ripped fruit from branches, leaving a blanket of decaying citrus on the ground. Flooding caused by the storm’s heavy rains damaged the root systems of trees.
After months of lobbying Congress for assistance, Putnam, Gov. Rick Scott and FIorida’s members in Congress were able to convince the U.S. Senate and House to pass a spending bill that included more than $2.3 billion for agricultural assistance.
“Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the United States Department of Agriculture, Florida’s agriculture industry and our elected leaders, a much-needed disaster relief package is on the way to help growers get back on their feet,” Putnam added.
The latest numbers reflect a decline of more than 80 percent since the peak of citrus production at 244 million boxes during the 1997-98 season.