Hurricane Irma damaged much of this year's Florida citrus crops. Growers say 30% to 50% of the crops in the Polk County area are lost and the damage is even worse in the south.
“Down south we are totally devastated, Irma wipes us out” said Lee Jones, the General Manager with Gardinier Florida Citrus. “We have one grove down there close to LeHigh Acres and I can’t even get into the grove.”
Jones said close to 50% of the company’s crops will never be put on store shelves. He says Irma is affecting crops that were already harmed by Greening Disease.
He says even though there is a shortage in product, most growers can’t raise the price on their harvest.
“Every large grower and even the majority of small growers, all of us, we sign long term contracts with processors so will the price of our fruit go up? No because we are locked into a four-year contract,” said Jones. “In the marketplace, will the price go up? I can’t answer that question. That is strictly up to the processors and up to demand.”
10 News reached out to several processors including Cutrale Citrus Juices in Winter Haven and left messages but none of those companies returned our call.
We also reached out to Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. In a short press release Commissioner Adam Putnam says, “It’s still too early to know the full extent of the damage to Florida citrus.”