Florida’s grapefruit growers have lost between 20% and 50% of their crop after orchards in the state were hit by Hurricane Wilma last month.
The Florida Department of Citrus warned this week that the true extent of the damage would not be known until December 9, when the US government is due to issue revised estimates for the crop size.
Just two weeks ago, the FDC reported an estimated crop of 24 million 85lb cartons, nearly double the previous hurricane-hit year. The crop was described as ideal, with enough fruit to meet demand, but not too
much to depress prices.
But growers have now suffered a demoralising reverse, and buyers in the UK face an uncertain wait to see what quantities are available to them.
Keith Lee Rupp, global marketing communications manager at the FDC, said the damage had been to fruit rather than trees and the impact of the hurricane was not expected to affect future seasons.
And he claimed that the fruit that remained on the trees was now likely to be better. “We think the remaining fruit will size up larger than expected and be juicier, because the trees will be able to concentrate more on nourishing those that are left.”
Lee Rupp insisted that promotional activity in the UK would proceed exactly as planned and that the timetable for the arrival of fruit in the UK - which is expected to be in about a fortnight - should not be affected.
Prices were now likely to be “a little higher” than expected, but no higher than last year, when the total crop volume was just 13 million cartons.
However, until final volumes for this season are known, it will remain difficult to judge just what proportion of fruit will be available for export.
About five million cartons had been earmarked for Europe, but this figure could now fall.
Richard Clarke