Commissioner Putnam Estimates $180 Million in Fruit and Vegetable Hurricane Damage

Abbey Taylor Fruit, Industry News Release, Top Posts, Vegetables

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has released an initial estimate on agriculture damage from Hurricane Irma. The estimate will serve as a baseline for policymakers as they create a disaster relief package for those impacted by the storm. Although these estimates are not final, they are a starting point. The document includes estimates on crop loss and cost of damages. Right now, Commissioner Putnam’s initial estimate shows $180 million worth of damage in the fruit and vegetable industry. Read his full estimate on fruit and vegetable damage:

Fruits and Vegetables (Excludes Citrus): $180,193,096

Florida is a major producer of fruits and vegetables, with more than $2.2 billion in annual sales and nearly 200,000 acres in production. Major products include fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, melons, and avocados, among many others.

An estimated 163,679 acres of fruits and vegetables were affected by hurricane or tropical storm winds, with 40,816 acres experiencing winds exceeding 111 mph, 51,646 acres experiencing winds between 74-110 mph, and 71,216 acres experiencing winds between 39-73 mph.

Fortunately, the planting season for most of these crops was just getting started, and most crop losses will happen due to shortened production season, market distortions, and reduced yields resulting from higher pest pressure due to dilution of pesticides. Total crop losses in fruit and vegetables throughout this acreage are estimated at 10%, a value of $72,324,496.

When fields experience storm surge with salt water inundation, the salt will remain in the soil for up to 3 years, depending on the amount of rainfall and irrigation practices over this period. We expect that up to 7,000 acres may experience this problem in the southern portions of the state, for a loss of $30,926,000.

The planting season was getting into full gear as Hurricane Irma hit, and many fields lost the plastic and drip-tape irrigation that had been installed. Plastic and drip-tape irrigation costs about $2,500 per acre. An estimated 10% of the affected acreage, or 16,368 acres, had blown plastic and drip-tape irrigation, for an estimated loss of $40,920,000.

In addition to blown plastic and irrigation, growers have reported clean-up costs of $300 per acre on all acreage that experienced hurricane strength winds. Given that 92,642 acres experienced hurricane force winds, this loss is estimated at $27,738,600.

Some blueberry growers have also reported that the wind ripped entire blueberry bushes from the ground, with one grower reporting that 125 acres of blueberry bushes were completely ripped from their beds. Land preparation and planting costs for an acre of blueberries in Florida is around $16,568 per acre, as reported in blueberry crop budgets. An estimated 500 acres statewide have suffered the same fate, bringing the cost of replanting berry bushes to $8,284,000.

Several growers are also reporting heavy infrastructure losses, including flooding and damage to internal farm roads, dikes, water control structures, and retention areas. However, there is not enough information to estimate these losses at the current time.

Total crop losses for fruit and vegetable producers are estimated to be $72,324,496. Total losses, including crop losses, for fruit and vegetable producers are estimated to be $180,193,096.

Read Putnam’s full estimate on all industries here.

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