LAKELAND, FL (Aug. 14, 2004) - Hurricane Charley devastated Florida citrus
growers as it made its way through central Florida yesterday. Three of the
state's largest citrus producing counties - DeSoto, Hardee and Polk - were
hit hard by the storm.
"Growers in these areas have seen their groves, barns, equipment and homes
destroyed," said Andy LaVigne, Florida Citrus Mutual's executive vice
president/CEO. "This will certainly have a huge impact on their livelihood
and this season's citrus crop."
These three counties, in addition to Manatee, Sarasota, Lee and Charlotte
counties, make up more than 280,000, or about 35%, of the state's 800,000
acres of citrus groves. Preliminary reports indicate that citrus trees have
been uprooted and fruit has been blown off remaining trees. The fruit,
which is currently golf-ball sized and green, is in the process of maturing
for next season's crop. "Since communication lines are down in these areas,
it is difficult for us to adequately gauge the crop loss and economic
impact this storm will have on Florida citrus growers who are already
suffering from very low fruit prices," said Andy LaVigne. "We hope to have
a better understanding within the next week."
Florida Citrus Mutual is communicating with state and federal authorities
to ensure that growers will be able to obtain any disaster assistance
available to alleviate the severe economic impact of this storm. Florida
Citrus Mutual, founded in 1948, is the state's largest citrus grower
organization with more than 11,000 members. The Florida citrus industry
provides a $9.1 billion annual economic impact to the state and employs