Hurricane Matthew: Florida Citrus Industry Is Relieved

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Hurricane Matthew caused minor damages to Florida citrus’ industry, according to a new statement issued by the Indian River Citrus League.

Hurricane Matthew has wrecked havoc in the Caribbean and the southern states leaving at least 21 dead in the U.S. and over 900 in Haiti.

Matthew, which was a category five hurricane, left billions of dollars in damage and millions out of power. In the midst of all that despair, orange growers in Florida received a bit of positive news.

The extremely powerful hurricane caused only minor damages to their orange groves. In 2004, the Sunshine State was hit with hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne that left the industry in shambles. The hurricanes destroyed 23 million boxes of an estimated 27 million boxes, according to Doug Bournique, executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League.

This time around, growers are expecting the outcome to be less catastrophic. Bournique said while they are still assessing the damage, he can already say that it will be nothing like 2004. He explained:

“There should be some minor dropping of fruit in the estimated 35,000 acres of citrus in St. Lucie and Indian River counties. That, we can deal with. We dodged a huge bullet.”

Exactly like in 2004, workers had just begun the harvest. Growers had started opening packinghouses and hiring people when Hurricane Matthew blew through Florida’s west of the coast where most of the groves are located. Bournique explained:

“Most groves are five to 10 miles west of the coast and winds peaked at only 48 mph overnight Thursday — far below the 120 mph winds that were forecast along the oceanfront. Matthew’s peak winds in Vero Beach were 74 mph.”

He added:

“Also, rainfall was comparatively light, and the storm moved quickly.We had a glancing blow.”

In the past years, Florida’s citrus industry has been hit by freezes and diseases and many hurricanes.

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