The damage that Hurricane Irma inflicted on citrus nurseries and citrus groves in September caused long delays in tree deliveries to growers, says Phil Rucks, owner of Phillip Rucks Citrus Nursery in Frostproof.
Rucks says 59 of the state’s 77 citrus nurseries sustained some degree of damage in the hurricane. Much of the nursery damage wasn’t repaired for half-a-year as citrus nurseries competed with other types of nurseries for repair supplies, he says. “It was kind of a long, drawn-out process. It took up to six months for materials to get delivered to us to get repairs,” he says.
“A lot of the growers sustained damage as well, having to get trees taken out … having to get the ground prepared and rebedded, like in the coastal areas,” Rucks says. “But also just the cleanup from the hurricane took several months. Some of them (growers) had to get insurance money” and many growers are still awaiting federal disaster assistance funds to be able to replant. As a result, he says, tree deliveries to some growers will be delayed up to a year. “That year delay is causing a backlog of nursery trees being held in the nurseries,” Rucks says.
Florida citrus nurseries grow about 3.5 million trees a year, Rucks reports. “Probably half of those trees are going to be held up in the nurseries because of that backlog of waiting on the growers to get the land prepared to take those trees,” he says. “So that results in trees not being grown for the following year, 2019, because those (nursery) spaces are still being filled with trees from 2018.”
Rucks was summarizing remarks he made at the International Citrus Business Conference in March.
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