South Florida growers suffered at least $4.1 million in crop damages after last fall’s oriental fruit fly outbreak.
The damage to Miami-Dade County crops, however, could have been far worse, according to researchers at the Gainesville-based University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Miami-Dade County is the leading Florida county producing tropical fruit and vegetables.
In September, Florida agricultural officials quarantined an 85-square-mile area around infestation detections and helped growers meet compliance agreement requirements, including spraying trees, removing fruit from host trees and treating a 1.5-square-mile area around each fly detection.
In the report, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer researchers and economists said the estimate is conservative, and they compiled optimistic, mid-range and pessimistic scenarios for crop losses.
A pessimistic estimate showed the losses could have been $23 million, according to a news release.
Because of the multiplier effect, the low estimate didn’t reflect the full economic effect on the economy, according to the release.
Additionally, state and local agencies spent $1.5 million in a joint effort to control the outbreak, according to the release.
The direct crop losses came as a result of the quarantine protocol and a potential non-planting response by growers.
“Although there was certainly a cost to growers in the regulated area, all of Florida agriculture would have been negatively impacted if the pest had expanded its reach,” Amanda Hodges, an associate extension entomology scientist, said in the release. “Other states and countries would have stopped outgoing shipments of Florida’s agricultural products. At the very least, this pest would have cost millions if not billions of dollars if it had made a home here.”
Oriental fruit flies most commonly attack avocados, mangoes and papayas.