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Port closures and flooding continues inland

Up to 20-50% losses for citrus in Florida after Irma

As Irma, now classified as a tropical storm, moves inland up through the south of the US, many coastal ports have been temporarily closed. In Georgia, the Port of Savannah and Port Charleston in South Carolina, both halted operations and are expected to resume on Tuesday.

A lot of American based companies with growing areas in central and South America were concerned about the affect the closing on the ports could have on their crops.

A mango grower, based in Florida, with mango growing areas in Mexico and Brazil said that, ‘Although our growing regions were not affected by either Katia or the earthquake, there have been delays in shipping our goods through the Caribbean Sea from both Central and South America, and further delays could cause a spike in prices.’

The same sentiment was shared by a Californian based banana grower with growing areas in Mexico and Guatemala.

Big losses for Florida citrus
According to Andrew Meadows, a spokesman for Lakeland-base Florida Citrus Mutual, Irma caused widespread damage across the Florida citrus-growing region. The five top citrus growing counties of Polk, Hendry, Highlands, Hardee and DeSoto took the brunt of Irma’s forces, with sustained winds between 130 and 156 mph. Depending on the location, Meadows estimated losses at 20-50%.

(Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

“The thing that’s frustrating is that first Hurricane Irma was supposed to go along the East Coast, then it supposedly shifted to just off the West Coast,” Meadows said. “It ended right through the uprights, right up the spine of the citrus industry.”
The damages came just after a positive forecast for the 2017-18 orange crop has been released, estimating a 10% increase in orange production this year, with 75.5 million boxes. It would have been the first time in 5 years that orange growers had seen an increase in production. The USDA is expected to release its first official citrus crop projections on 12 October, but it is questionable it is will be possible to resurvey the groves hit by Irma before this time.

Florida accounts for 56 percent of U.S. citrus production and is the No. 1 state for oranges, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The state’s total production value for oranges in 2015 was $1.17 billion.

Orange juice futures traded about 3.5 percent lower on Monday, after jumping nearly 13 percent last week ahead of anticipated crop destruction from the huge storm. That was orange juice futures' best week since Oct. 16, 2015 when orange juice futures gained more than 16 percent.

Meanwhile, Brazil, the world's largest grower, is expected to have a major crop this year, which would provide a buffer to what might have been lost in Florida. Brazilian fresh orange production is forecast at 471 million boxes, up from 352 million in 2016-2017 and the highest total since 2012-2013.

Other crops threatened by Irma are tomatoes, green beans, cotton and peanuts.
“Not many crops are in peak season,” shared John Hoblick, Florida Farm Bureau president, “and growers with product in the field are just trying to protect what they have out there by putting plastic down or using sheds.”

Sweet potatoes at risk in North Carolina
North Carolina’s emergency officials say the forecast keeps improving as Tropical Storm Irma churns to the north and west, but they say residents will still feel the storm’s effects.

Although most of the warnings are aimed at the state’s mountainous areas, for localised flooding and possible power outages, there is also a risk for minor flooding on the coast. Heavy rain and high winds should begin in the state Monday afternoon and continue until early Tuesday.

After speaking to a local sweet potato grower on Sunday, he said that up to that point they had not received any damage to their fields, but that they were concerned about the level of rainfall they would receive, an excess of which would damage crops.

With North Carolina being the number one producer of sweet potatoes, accounting for 59% of US production in 2016, damages could have a huge effect on an increasingly popular product in high demand.
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