The hurricane “came right up through the heart of the citrus belt”, said Ray Royce, executive director of the Highlands Citrus Growers Association. Royce reports that in some counties growers have lost as much as 80% of their fruit. Florida orange growers were already facing a challenging year as greening disease, an invasive bacterium that thrives in warm climates and can kill trees and cause fruit to drop early, hit their plants.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) predicted that the state will produce 28m boxes of oranges this season, down 32% from the previous season. This would be the smallest harvest since 1943. And the impact of Hurricane Ian may not yet be over, Royce said. In some areas, the storm didn’t just cause fruit to fall, but entirely uprooted or flooded trees.