Flor­ida or­ange crop will plunge to 71-year low

The Columbus Dispatch - - Market Summary - Alan Bjerga and Marvin G. Perez

Flor­ida’s or­ange pro­duc­tion will plunge 21 per­cent to a 71-year low af­ter dam­age wrought by Hur­ri­cane Irma dev­as­tated the har­vest, while out­put of cotton also suf­fered in storm- hit ar­eas, govern­ment fig­ures showed.

Or­ange grow­ers in Flor­ida, the largest U. S. pro­ducer, will har­vest 54 mil­lion boxes in the 2017- 18 mar­ket­ing year, the least since 1947 — an era when cit­rus ir­ri­ga­tion was rare — the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture said in a re­port Thurs­day. A sur­vey of an­a­lysts con­ducted by Bloomberg in­di­cated a crop of 58.2 mil­lion boxes. A box weighs 90 pounds.

Irma, which dropped as much as 17 inches of rain on cit­rus- grow­ing ar­eas in a 24-hour pe­riod, made it im­pos­si­ble for farm­ers to reach their groves, with trees de­stroyed and fruit drop­ping to the ground un­har­vested, the USDA said.

Cotton yields also de­clined in states bat­tered by Irma in Septem­ber and Hur­ri­cane Har­vey, which hit Texas and the Gulf Coast about two weeks ear­lier. Es­ti­mated pro­duc­tiv­ity in Texas, the big­gest U. S. grower of the fiber, fell to 745 pounds per acre from 757 pounds pre­dicted in Septem­ber, with much of the state’s grow­ing area un­af­fected by Har­vey. Ge­or­gia, which was in Irma’s path, saw yields fall to 900 pounds per acre, down from an es­ti­mated 1,013 pounds.

U. S. cotton pro­duc­tion this year may be 21.1 mil­lion pounds, up 23 per­cent from last year on higher acreage and down 3 per­cent from last month’s es­ti­mate.

Irma caused an es­ti­mated $ 2.5 bil­lion in dam­age to agri­cul­ture, the Flor­ida Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Con­sumer Ser­vices said Oct. 4. Pre­lim­i­nary es­ti­mates show $760.8 mil­lion in dam­age to the cit­rus in­dus­try. Texas’s state farm agency has yet to re­lease a dam­age es­ti­mate for Har­vey, which hit the Gulf Coast re­gion in late Au­gust.

“The path of Hur­ri­cane Irma could not have been more lethal than what it was,” Flor­ida Agri­cul­ture Com­mis­sioner Adam Put­nam said Wed­nes­day. Groves are still un­der water in south­west Flor­ida and state law­mak­ers are call­ing for im­me­di­ate fed­eral aid for pro­duc­ers.

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