Will hurricane damage compound Florida citrus acreage loss?
Hurricane Irma is headed toward Puerto Rico and Cuba—and may hit the heart of Florida’s citrus belt. Even if the center of the storm follows the southernmost tracking forecast, the region is still likely to be hit with hurricane-force winds and storm surges, both very damaging to citrus groves. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma, which hit the state as a Category 3 hurricane in October, stripped millions of boxes of oranges off the trees; production that year totaled 151 million boxes, down 20 percent from USDA’s initial estimate. For the 2017/18 season, Florida was already facing a 5 percent loss in commercial orange acreage; production in 2016/17 was just 81.7 million boxes.
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