As many communities, especially hard-hit areas of North Carolina, continue to wrestle with the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, floral industry members are taking stock of the damage.
Cut foliage growers in Florida, in particular, face significant challenges and months, if not years, of recovery work, and florists can expect higher prices on popular Sunshine State foliage, including leatherleaf into the coming holiday seasons, said Jana Register, director of sales and marketing at FernTrust in Seville, Florida, a co-op made up of 13 family farms.
“The wind damage across the cut foliage industry of our area is severe, with some estimates placing total loss at more than 50 percent and some growers seeing 100 percent losses,” she explained, adding that the destruction could affect crop availability for through Valentine’s Day.
Members of Register’s co-op own more than 300 acres of fern farms, making it one of the largest growers and shippers in the area, David Register, president of the Volusia County Farm Bureau and executive vice president of FernTrust, told The Daytona Beach News Journal.
“Both the saran shade structures and the natural oak hammocks were affected, so all Florida foliages will be in relative short supply until the spring crops come in next year. This is especially true of leatherleaf,” Jana said. “If we are lucky we may see a small fall crop if warm weather holds out, but that is not a given.”
Repair efforts will be hard and expensive work, she said. (Her own home, and the homes of her employees suffered “very little damage” and have had their power restored.)
“Growers are facing not only diminished sales but staggering repair costs that have necessitated significant price increases on most all Florida grown foliages,” she said. “We hope that this price support will provide the financial assistance needed to get the industry rebuilt and ready to serve the floral industry in the years to come.”
Hurricane Matthew’s death toll in the United States has climbed to more than two dozen. Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina said Tuesday that the state had recorded 14 fatalities. At least six people died in Florida, and the authorities in Georgia and South Carolina reported three deaths in each state. As of Wednesday morning, more than 650,000 customers remain without electricity, according to local utilities, with about half of those in North Carolina and Virginia.