COVID-19 adversely affected Florida’s vegetable and specialty crop producers in 2020. The financial impact was staggering, comparable to hurricanes that ravage the region almost every year.
Christa Court, an assistant professor of regional economics at the University of Florida/IFAS, compares the pandemic’s impact to Hurricane Irma, which impacted the state in 2017.
“The one that I typically compare it to is the estimates we have that are relatively comparable for Hurricane Irma. If you remember, Hurricane Irma came straight up the peninsula of Florida and impacted nearly every county that had agricultural production in some way where it was large enough that the tropical storm forced winds covered just about the entire state,” Court said. “That I believe was just over $1 billion. Looking at (COVID’s impact of) $895 million of just that one season, it’s not $895 million for all production that occurred in 2020 but just what was going on in that March-to-mid-May season.
“It’s a significant impact and comparable to some of these larger hurricanes that we’ve experienced.”
As restaurants closed down nationwide, farmers felt the sting of a normal sales outlet not being an available option anymore. Farmers had to think inside the box with their marketing strategies. Many resorted to selling boxed produce direct to consumers. While they didn’t recoup all the profits they would have gotten selling to restaurants, their marketing efforts helped make people aware of the importance of buying American.