Florida crops suffer at least $115 million in freeze damages, so far

4:12 PM, Dec 27, 2010   |    comments
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Tallahassee, Fla. -- As Florida deals with yet another arctic blast right now, a new report shows freezes earlier this month caused at least $115 million in damage.

The Florida Department of Agriculture has compiled crop damage estimates from cold weather through December 20.

The report shows the cucumber crop was wiped out.  Florida and Mexico usually supply this crop in the winter, but Florida has not shipped anything for more than a week.  Shipments of cucumbers are up from Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Eggplant, snap beans and peppers were nearly wiped out.  Cabbage, sweet corn and squash all suffered heavy losses.

Nelson Mongiovi of the Agriculture Department calls it an ugly December for crops.

"It is very unusual.  I think these temperatures hit us probably 30 days earlier than we expected.  Last year around January, we had a horrible freeze and knocked us out for almost half a billion dollars.  We're not there yet this year.  We hope we don't get there.  But I got to tell you, it's awfully cold, awfully early."

Mongiovi says fortunately it looks as though citrus has dodged a bullet for now.

"Citrus is our signature crop and they got a bad hit last January and we're just hoping they don't see those temperatures below 28 degrees for four more hours."

The verdict is still out on tomatoes.  The crop did suffer damage, but it will take several weeks to gauge the impact.

The state Agriculture Department estimates Florida has suffered a total economic loss of about $275 million when you consider indirect losses.

"When we say $115 million, that's directly to the grower.  That's their losses.  But when you begin to take into account all the people that are affected by those crops, you're looking at $250 million, $275 million worth of losses.  There is a trickle-down effect that goes with all this," said Mongiovi.

The agriculture report shows crops that have fared okay so far include oranges, grapefruit, tangelos, avocados, radishes and strawberries.

Dave Heller

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