Once again, Florida’s nursery and landscape industry was hit as Hurricane Frances rushed through the already-suffering state. Initial estimates of nursery crop loss and structural damage from Hurricane Frances is in the $350-400 million range, according to the Florida Nursery, Growers, & Landscape Association (FNGLA). When combined with the $100-200 million estimate from Hurricane Charley, which hit three weeks earlier, Florida’s nursery and landscape industry has taken a $450-600 million hit.
“These loss estimates do not include nursery costs of preparing for the hurricanes, getting back up and running and lost sales during these extended periods of business interruptions,” said Ben Bolusky, executive vice president of FNGLA.
GPN has spoken to a number of growers across the state, and so far the damage is mostly on some poly and shade cloth, very similar to Charley. The only difference is that Frances brought flooding, and that damaged crops. As of press time, a number of people still did not have power and were working the greenhouses with generators. Though we assume there are some growers that were damaged more heavily from the hurricane, they are in the middle of surveying the damage, and we felt should not be bothered at this time.
“While we have nurseries flattened in some parts of the state and other nurseries under water, this is a large and resilient industry. Florida’s foliage and nursery industry is open for business,” says Bill Klinger, FNGLA president.
One common thing we are hearing from the growers is that if the storm itself doesn’t hurt them, the loss of sales will. Many growers can’t get product out because of closed roads and stores, so many crops are just there overgrowing.
As for citizens of the state, people are having to deal with food and water shortages as well as looters taking to the streets while having to deal with the extremely hot weather.
FNGLA is working closely with Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bronson, Governor Jeb Bush and the state’s congressional delegation in seeking the needed federal assistance to Florida’s $9.9 billion nursery and landscape industry and the 158,000 Floridians it employs.
Early last week, President Bush visited the state for the third time in a month to help reassure the state’s residents that more help was on the way. On Wednesday of last week, Bush signed a bill allocating at least $2 billion in emergency funds to Florida for the damage of the two hurricanes with a possible promise of more to come. He even helped a few people load supplies into cars at a relief station along with Governor Jeb Bush.
However, as citizens are working on getting things cleaned up from Frances, another massive hurricane is headed for the state once again. As of press time, Ivan has already hit the Caribbean and resulted in fatalities along its path. Weather officials are projecting that it is going to hit Florida as early as Monday or possibly Tuesday. As of press time, Ivan was up to a category four, hopefully it will simmer down significantly as it gets closer to Florida. Evacuations have already taken place, and people are just hoping for some sign of relief.