March 24, 2023
1 Year After Hurricane Irma, Florida Agriculture Stronger

Photo: Florida Farm Bureau

The immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma brought scenes like this across Florida's citrus belt. Fast forward one year later and early crop forecasts for the 2018-2019 season paint a much different picture.

Growing Produce News Release

1 Year After Hurricane Irma, Florida Agriculture Stronger

It’s hard to believe a year has passed since Hurricane Irma stormed our shore, leaving behind it devastation for businesses and families alike across the peninsula. Yes, the time certainly has gone by quickly during the recovery phase. Simply looking around now gives one perspective about all the hard work done to get back on track and start rolling forward.

The state’s agriculture sector is a prime example of how to take one on the chin, dust yourself off, and forge ahead — again. For many growers, the last 12 months might have felt like 12 years, rebuilding, replanting, and patiently waiting for federal aid to help replenish depleted company coffers. And even though Irma is long gone, underlying stressors are still present.

Alas, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right? I’ve never totally bought in to that saying. However, there are instances where I could be convinced. Florida citrus is coming off a historically low-production season, finishing at 44.95 million boxes of oranges and less than 4 million boxes of grapefruit thanks to Irma’s gut punch along with greening’s constant jabs below the belt.

Despite all that, early prognostications about the 2018-2019 citrus season are downright rosy. Back in August, a group of Bloomberg analysts compiled citrus survey data, which altogether averaged 70 million boxes of oranges for the coming campaign. But wait. Topping that, the annual pre-season forecast from local citrus economist Elizabeth Steger is projecting 77 million boxes. Wait, what?

Based on remarks from Steger after the report’s release, it’s apparent her calculations factored in more than black-and-white projections: “As we traveled around the state working on our forecast, we were impressed with the general healthy condition of many groves and the new plantings of young trees.”

I guess in this case, seeing is truly believing. Growers and citrus associations around the state have been submitting positive reports from the groves, too.

USDA’s initial crop estimate will be released around this time next month. It should be interesting to see how the agency’s numbers compare. The good news is we’re still here and anxious to find out — never mind the several areas of interest stirring in the tropics as of this posting.

Time might not heal all wounds. But moving forward can, and often does, lead to new opportunity. We’ll never forget where our scar tissue comes from. Let’s use those memories of lessons learned the hard way as inspiration to look ahead. There really is no other choice.

This story is from Growing Produce.

Paul Rusnak is the Senior Managing Online Editor of Florida Grower, American Vegetable Grower, American Fruit Grower, and Greenhouse Grower magazines, all Meister Media Worldwide brands. See all author stories here.

Tags: Agriculture

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