Horticulture industry damage significant, but not major

Allen D. Owings, Bogren, Richard C.  |  9/8/2008 11:44:18 PM

News Release Distributed 09/08/08

Louisiana’s commercial ornamental horticulture industry received significant but not major damage from the effects of Hurricane Gustav, according to experts at the LSU AgCenter.

“Initial statewide estimates are very rough at this point, but it seems to indicate the wholesale nursery crop loss is in the range of $5 million,” said Dr. Allen Owings, a horticulturist at the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station in Hammond.

“Most damage seems to be in the field-growing operations that produce trees and shrubs,” he said. “Plants have been lost due to blow-over, and some remaining plants in the field were damaged, which will result in a quality loss once plants are of salable size.”

Owings said structural damage, facility damage, container-yard damage, irrigation-system repairs, cleanup costs and labor involved in pre-storm preparation and post-storm recovery will add to economic losses for wholesale growers.

He estimated structure damage in the range of $3-4 million, primarily confined to greenhouses, shade-growing structures and storage buildings.

Wind damage is primarily confined to the western portions of the southeast region of the state and the south central and central Louisiana areas, Owings said.

“Forest Hill is the largest nursery production area in Louisiana and suffered the most damage,” the horticulturist said. “Only minor damage to plants and structures was reported in the eastern area of the Florida Parishes, another major nursery-production area in the state.”

To make matters worse, Owings reported wholesale nursery growers in Louisiana and across the Southeast have been facing a significant market slowdown during the past year, with wholesale sales decreasing by some estimates of up to 20 percent from previous years.

“Wholesale production sales have generally increased 2-3 percent annually since 2000 compared to double-digit annual increases in the 1980s and 5-10 percent annual increases in the 1990s,” Owings said. “We anticipate that an economic turnaround for the industry will begin in late 2009 or early 2010.”

In addition to commercial growers and wholesalers, garden retailers across a 30-parish region were adversely affected by Gustav, Owings said. Many lost electricity; most had damage to shade structures and outdoor garden areas; and damage to plants in display areas was significant.

“Unfortunately, Hurricane Gustav also arrived at the beginning of the fall season for garden centers, which generally runs from the Labor Day weekend through Thanksgiving,” Owings said. “Consumers will be less likely to spend resources on gardening items until cleanup is completed later this fall.”

The LSU AgCenter estimates wholesale ornamental plant sales annually in Louisiana are about $150-170 million, and plant inventories make up another $100-150 million. Louisiana’s total commercial ornamental horticulture industry – which includes wholesale nursery growers, landscape contracting and maintenance along with retail garden center sales – contributes more than $2.2 billion annually to Louisiana’s economy and employs 57,000 individuals.

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Contact: Allen Owings at (985) 543-4125 or aowings@agcenter.lsu.edu

Writer: Rick Bogren at (225) 578-5839 or rbogren@agcenter.lsu.edu


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