Hurricane Zeta Damages Citrus, Nurseries Near New Orleans

BELLE CHASSE, La. (AP) — Hurricane Zeta hit Louisiana’s citrus growers right at harvest time, and hit them hard.

“We have some growers with up to 75% of their citrus laying on the ground,” LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Joe Willis said in a news release Wednesday.

Louisiana’s commercial citrus groves are centered in Plaquemines Parish just outside New Orleans, where the hurricane’s eye passed on Oct. 28. Some growers also are having a hard time finding materials to rebuild because of the coronavirus pandemic, Willis said.

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Navel oranges appeared to be hurt the worst, according to the AgCenter.

“We lost at least half of our citrus crop,” said grower Ben Becnel Jr.

Every grower in the area took a hard hit from Zeta, he said.

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“Normally storms come in August and September when the fruit is small, but this one came at harvest time,” he said.

Ripe, heavy fruit falls more easily in high wind, he said.

Becnel said he lost between 200 and 300 trees, about one-quarter of his total.

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“We were about half finished with the satsuma harvest and about two weeks from the start of the navels,” he said. “I would say that about 20% of the fruit that stayed on the trees are damaged.”

Becnel said he will replant, but recovery will take years with higher expenses and lower income.

About a mile away at Langridge Plant Sales, owner Tina Roach said, “Of our 26 greenhouses, we only have three roofs left.”

The storm also destroyed a huge number of poinsettias, she said.

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