Economic Trends, Disaster Analysis Discussed

Ernie NeffEconomics

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Hurricane Irma flooded citrus groves in 2017.

The economic trends of Florida’s citrus industry and how the impacts of a natural disaster are determined were discussed recently by a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) economist.

Christa Court, assistant professor of regional economics and director of the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program, said Florida citrus production and yield are trending downward. “But we have been also seeing increases in price over time because the supply has declined, so it’s offsetting a little bit of that revenue change for producers that are still in the industry,” Court said. “Revenue is declining at less of a downward trend than the production.”

When Hurricane Irma severely damaged Florida agriculture in 2017, UF/IFAS economists realized there wasn’t much information available about the impact of natural disasters on agriculture. Consequently, they started creating baseline information about citrus and other agricultural industries. “We really want to know where a particular industry was right before the disaster,” including prices received for crops, Court said.

Once a natural disaster hits, “we start collecting information as soon as the event has passed and it’s safe,” Court said. Information collection is done by visiting producers and others and by calling them on the phone.

The larger the scale of the disaster, the longer it takes to assess damage, Court said. She explained that “communication lines are down and roads are flooded,” keeping economists from accessing groves immediately.

In assessing citrus damage, economists need to know how long groves were under water so they can better determine how root damage will impact production, Court explained. And while it’s easy to see how much fruit wind dropped to the ground immediately, it’s not as easy to determine how much wind damage will impact production at the end of the season, she added.

Court also discussed the economic impact of citrus on the Florida economy. Hear an interview with Court on these topics in the August episode of the All In For Citrus podcast, a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media. Listen to the full podcast here.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large