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US (FL): Industry prepares for Hurricane Irma

In the floral industry, Florida is recognized as the fern and foliage capital of the United States, and the fern farms there were hit hard.

Last year, Hurricane Matthew left 60 to 90 percent of fern farms reporting damage, calling it the “most damaging hurricane in recent history.”

"So, as Hurricane Irma bears down and Floridians prepare for the worst, our thoughts and prayers go out to our flower and fern farming community in Florida", writes Kasey Cronquist of American Grown Flowers. "With so many hours and dollars spent on the recovery and repair from Matthew, we are praying that Irma fades away into a tropical mist and spares these farms from another destructive weather event."

"No matter what happens, America’s flower farmers continue to stand with our fellow flower and fern farmers in Florida."

Industry prepares for Irma
Days after the hurricane hit, Deborah De La Flor, of De La Flor Gardens in Cooper City, Florida, had collected badly needed donations — toiletries, water, diapers and much more — and, with the help of Southern Floral Company in Houston, delivered them to storm victims in need.

This week, De La Flor finds herself in a much different position, as Hurricane Irma barrels toward Florida, disrupting the industry supply chain and putting at risk growers, wholesalers, retailers and suppliers in its still uncertain path.

“Right now, we are preparing and trying to manage all of the unknowns,” said Christine Boldt, executive vice president of the Association of Floral Importers of Florida. “Importers are working hard to get flowers into Miami so they can get them out to the customers.”

Steve Catando, purchasing manager for DV Flora, said the company has been preparing for the storm since Tuesday morning. “There is significant concern about how this will affect us and the industry overall,” he said. “Miami is the single and major hub for our South American products. We are actively and aggressively making logistical changes and trying to advance our shipments now so that we have a good supply for our customers.”

Oscar Fernandez of Equiflor/Rio Roses said everyone in South Florida is “very concerned.”

“Some trucking companies have already canceled service on Friday,” said Fernandez, a member of the Society of American Florists’ Wholesalers Council. “We are urging all of our customers to take as many flowers as possible from their Friday through Monday orders. Regardless of where the hurricane ends up passing through, we are convinced there will be a disruption to the business.”

In Seville, Florida, Jana Register of FernTrust Inc. said the company is already dealing with changes to trucking routes — and hoping that the storm’s path shifts farther east.

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