South Florida citrus crop loss estimated at 50-70%, says FFVA

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Marco Rubio, R-Fla., right, on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, in Lake Wales, Fla., during a tour of citrus groves damaged by Hurricane Irma. He says south Florida is hardest hit.

Still, orange flavors are set to be a hit looking into next year: "Our Original Oranges flavors are the ones to watch out for in 2018 - the orange flavor comes from the original orange crops in Florida, Brazil and Valencia". The harvest season for oranges and grapefruit normally begins in October, so the storm arrived as the fruit was nearing maturity. Amy Green of member station WMFE reports the state's iconic crop already was reeling from a disease called citrus greening. This is a heartbreaking blow to our already fragile citrus industry, the jewel of Florida.

Last month, Hurricane Harvey destroyed an estimated US$150 million of cotton crops in Texas, ripping the bolls off plants and leaving white fiber strewn across fields, according to Reuters. The hurricane also knocked down sugar cane, which will make harvest more hard.

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Still, Irma caused widespread damage across Florida citrus-growing region, said Andrew Meadows, a spokesman for Lakeland-base Florida Citrus Mutual, the growers' trade group. Aerial observations this week should start showing how much was knocked down, he said. In many cases those crops aren't in the ground yet, or it's early enough to replant.

"As a result, the tomato crop is expected to be light at the first part of November, but volume should build and we expect a solid December", she said. Strawberry growers expect to recover quickly and harvest on time, she said.

"A big concern for growers is finding available workers to help them in their recovery efforts", Lochridge said. The port is home to nearly one-third of all USA poultry exports, according to Reuters.

Irma could also have a longer-term impact on the citrus industry because it takes a few years to grow an orange tree to the point where it bears fruit.

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Putnam says in southwest Florida, in what is now one of the largest growing areas in the state for citrus, losses to the citrus crop are estimated to be 70 percent or more.

Browning said the hurricane is like "an accelerant" on top of the devastating greening disease.

Oranges knocked to the ground can not be consumed. They spiked last week as Irma bore down but slipped this week.

Chet Townsend is editor of the Citrus Daily newsletter and also owns a five-acre grove near Fort Denaud in southwestern Florida. Good morning. How are you?

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"I haven't been in every grove in Polk County, but the ones I've been to look like they've lost 30 percent of their fruit", Story said.

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