Commissioner Nikki Fried highlights $522 million in COVID-19 crop losses

TALLAHASSEE — On April 23, Agriculture Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) released the Florida Seasonal Crop COVID-19 Impact Assessment, a new report providing data on crop losses facing Florida farmers. Based on figures reported by growers, total crop losses across the state through mid-April 2020 may exceed $522.5 million. Florida is the nation’s second-largest producer of seasonal specialty crops such as blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and more.

Florida Seasonal Crop COVID-19 Impact Assessment:

The Florida Seasonal Crop COVID-19 Impact Assessment was assembled utilizing phone interviews with growers on April 15, 2020. It should be noted that markets, as well as selling and purchase strategies, change rapidly for most crop sectors with the current conditions of the market. Fluctuations for these projected figures should be expected. Below is information on six of the eleven seasonal crops surveyed to collect value loss data for the Florida Seasonal Crop

Selected crop loss data:

Lettuce: Circumstances have driven sales down by at least 60% for the season, with estimates of 75% or more of the crop being plowed under. A conservative value loss estimate for the Florida lettuce industry is $5-7 million. Some growers in this industry still have one month of harvest left to complete, and report that a more precise estimate will be available once the season ends in mid-May.

Green beans: Estimated crop losses of green beans in Florida ranges from 50-75% and prices have fallen from $16-18 per box to $6-8 per box in one week. This crop loss cumulatively could range from 75-100% in Central and North Florida, where harvest season has just begun. Industry estimates may approach $40-50 million in overall losses. This crop is approaching heavy scheduled volumes and peak production in coming weeks.

Cabbage: Overall demand for Florida cabbage has decreased by almost 100% following the closure of processed product markets for food service. Estimates of crop losses approach $24 million for the Florida cabbage industry.

Zucchini/Squash: Growers of zucchini and squash are harvesting the crop only where pre-existing contracts are in place or for the purpose of preserving plants. With 25% of the product still remaining in fields, prices have dropped from $28 per box to as low as $3 per box. Estimated losses on Florida zucchini and squash are $17 million for each crop. These crops are approaching heavy scheduled volumes and peak production in coming weeks.

Peppers: It is estimated that up to at least 25% of the overall Florida pepper crop has yet to be picked, as growers are harvesting only to cover pre-existing contracts, and then are shutting down production quickly to minimize further losses. Each crop is typically only seeing one to two picks, resulting in approximately 20% of the total pepper business being plowed under this season. Estimated losses are at least $10 million on Florida peppers.

Cucumbers: Many South Florida companies grow cucumbers for the spring market, and 100% of that spring market crop may now be plowed under. Industry estimates approach up to $38 million in overall losses. This crop is approaching heavy scheduled volumes and peak production in coming weeks.

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