Citrus Industry Dodges Hurricane Dorian

Ernie Neffhurricane

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“This was a big miracle,” Indian River Citrus League Executive Vice President Doug Bournique said late Wednesday morning after Hurricane Dorian had passed Florida’s Citrus Belt. He said while assessments were still being made, there apparently was only minimal leaf and fruit loss in the Indian River region.

The Indian River area was the closest Florida citrus-growing region to Dorian, which went north off the state’s coastline Tuesday and Wednesday. Florida Citrus Mutual and other grower associations in the state also reported little or no damage or excessive standing water in groves, also based on early assessments.

Bournique said the small fruit and leaf loss he heard about occurred on the outside rows of groves. “The inside of the groves looks fine,” he said. He gave much credit for the limited wind damage to many miles of windbreaks planted around Indian River groves several years ago. “The grapefruit is by and large intact,” Bournique added.

“The Florida citrus industry dodged a big bullet,” added Mike Sparks, CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, the large statewide citrus growers’ association. “Preliminary indications are (there’s) little or no damage.” Sparks said that he’d heard of no problems outside of the minimal ones expected in the Indian River region. That assessment of hurricane impacts was confirmed by other regional citrus associations.

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“To my knowledge, we did not have any ill effects,” said Ray Royce, executive director of the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association. He said it was possible “a few oranges could have gotten shaken off here or there, maybe in the eastern part of the county,” but that he had not heard of any such damage. “So I will say we have certainly escaped any significant damage at all.”

“I think we stayed pretty safe,” said Kait Shaw, executive director of Peace River Valley Citrus Growers Association. “I haven’t heard of any destruction.”

Steve Smith, executive vice president of the Gulf Citrus Growers Association, had also not heard of any issues with his members. Growers in his region are mostly located on the opposite side of the state from Hurricane Dorian’s path.

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Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large