Growing Pains

(WSVN) - Hurricane Irma is long gone, but it’s impact has put Florida farmers in a big hole. Now, produce customers will also find themselves paying the price. As fruit and vegetable growers try to clean up, replant and recover, grocery store customers need to brace themselves to feel some growing pains when they reach the register.

Bob Roth, mango grower: “We probably lost 90 percent of the trees that went down.”

These mango trees are hanging by a thread — a heavy duty rope the only thing keeping most of them standing. Irma shredded Bob Roth’s mango grove in Broward county. He lost 70 percent of this year’s crop and has been working around the clock to save what he can…

Bob Roth: “We took the tops off them and had heavy equipment come in and pull them back into place, stood them back up and replanted them. Now we’re hoping, we’ll know in about six months, we’re hoping that they’ll retake again.”

But it will be years before the lives of South Florida farmers are back to normal…

Victoria Barnes, avocado grower: “These trees right here are just sheared off, ripped off and twisted off.”

Grower Victoria Barnes says avocados in Miami-Dade took a massive hit from Irma.

Victoria Barnes: “Lots of trees have had major damage, which is going to cause a lot of loss, for about two or three years. I really believe, without a doubt it’ll be an economic loss for us.”

The Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association says farmers across Florida lost 80 to 90 percent of their crops — numbers the Miami-Dade County Farm Bureau director calls staggering.

John Abreu, Miami-Dade County Farm Bureau: “There is probably about $250 million damage, and those are preliminary numbers for Dade County alone.”

Farmers aren’t the only ones being affected. Finding locally grown fruits and vegetables is going to be much harder, and we will all be paying more because farmers are raising their prices to stay afloat after Irma.

Bob Roth: “Tomatoes, we sell tomatoes in the store. They have gone up 30-40 percent already.”

The State of Florida is trying to get financial help for the farmers through the federal government’s disaster relief program.

John Abreu: “It won’t pay the bills, but it will help alleviate some of the problems that they’re dealing with right now.”

The Farm Bureau admits that federal aid is hard to come by. Florida filed a claim after Hurricane Andrew and it was denied. So unfortunately, it will be up to Florida farmers to save their crops.

John Abreu: “We’ve had to hire some extra hands to help us with things we can’t do, and there’s just no way. The magnitude of the work is just incredible.”

Officials are hoping the trees will be as resilient as the farmers who planted them.

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