The majority of Cuba’s 250,000-tonne crop of red and white grapefruit has escaped unharmed by hurricane Ivan, according to Yossi Hecht, managing director of importer Hart & Friedmann.
“Our citrus groves were untouched, although other fruit has been destroyed at the eastern tip of the island,” he said.
The news from Cuba will hearten UK buyers expecting severely reduced grapefruit estimates from Florida.
Hurricane Frances hit grapefruit crops along the Indian River east coast region - the traditional source of pink grapefruit exported to the UK.
Lee Bouldin, who is responsible for international markets at exporter DNE Sales,
said: “The centre of hurricane Frances hit where approximately two-thirds of Florida’s grapefruit crop is located. Fortunately most trees were not uprooted, but many were defoliated.”
Florida agricultural commissioner Charles Bronson had earlier estimated that half of the grapefruit crop in the region had been lost.
However, according to Andrew Meadows, spokesman for the Florida Department of Citrus, official estimates were still being collated.
A major worry for Florida’s citrus growers will be the quality of fruit that remains. Buyers may be forced to source fruit from Mexico and the Mediterranean.
The effects of hurricane Ivan on the Jamaican banana crop were not yet clear. Dickon Poole is marketing manager for Jamaica Producers, which owns the two largest plantations. He confirmed both farms had been hit. “It will take at least six months to bring these back into production,” he said. “It is inevitable that many of the small growers that ship fruit through us have also been hit.
“However, we will be able to meet all our programmes with fruit sourced from Central and South America."
David Shapley