Florida ag losses may total $1.56B

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Florida ag losses may total $1.56B

Florida’s citrus, vegetable and melon production suffered the greatest financial losses in Hurricane Ian, according to Christa Court, director of the program and assistant professor in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department. IFAS is the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida.

Court spoke Oct. 18 on a virtual press conference. At the same time, IFAS released a new document, “Preliminary Assessment of Agricultural Losses and Damages resulting from Hurricane Ian,” from the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program. This summarizes losses from Ian, which struck Florida’s southwest coast on Sept. 29, then slowly crossed the peninsula, with winds as high category 4 and 20 or more inches of rainfall in some areas.

University of Florida economists predict the combination of seasonal crops, livestock, nursery and aquaculture products potentially lost as a result of category 4 Hurricane Ian will likely be valued between $787 million and $1.56 billion. 

Preliminary IFAS estimates are that losses to Florida citrus due to Ian will be in the range of $147- to $304 million. The variance depends on the level of fruit drop, damage to branches, and impacts due to heavy precipitation and flooding.

Vegetable and melon losses are estimated to sustain significant production total between $208- and $394 million. Vegetable and melon impacts are heavily dependent on the ability (or inability) to replant damaged or destroyed crops.

Horticultural crop losses may fall in the range of $154- to $297 million. Field and row crops face as much as $160 million in losses and animals and animal products losses could be as high as $222 million. The estimated top level of cumulative losses for these categories is $1.56 billion.

“Even though the coast – an area with comparatively less agricultural production than inland areas – bore some of the worst impacts of the storm, the strong winds and heavy rains battered a wide swath of the peninsula that includes over five million acres of agricultural land,” IFAS’ Court indicates. “This estimate only accounts for production losses, or changes in expected revenues for the current calendar or market year; citrus, for example, had not yet begun harvesting, and some fall vegetables, like tomatoes and peppers, were already planted.”

Some commodities were already looking at lower expected production due to a hard freeze event in January that affected much of the same acreage, she added. 

“Southwest counties that got hit the hardest by Hurricane Ian have remained in rescue and recovery mode; we anticipate our assessments will not be complete for several weeks,” Court indicates in IFAS’ release. “Our preliminary estimate is a range, a wide range, to account for many of these unknowns. What isn’t destroyed might have diminished yield or quality, which will not be apparent for weeks or months, and then even more effects can appear in the long-term.” 

Court said the survey will remain open for an undefined amount of time. The program will release a full report once analyses are completed.

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