Allen D. Owings, Merrill, Thomas A.
Hurricane Rita dealt a second blow to Louisiana’s nursery, landscape and retail garden center businesses, known collectively as the "Green Industry," according to experts with the LSU AgCenter.
LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings said the major damage was inflicted on Louisiana’s nursery industry and came primarily in the areas of wholesale plant production and retail garden centers.
"Crop losses from flood and wind damage in wholesale nurseries and plant and facility damage due to wind at retail garden centers are the primary issues being dealt with," Owings said.
Owings said initial estimates show the wholesale nursery crop loss attributed to Hurricane Rita is in the range of $5 million. That damage to wholesale nurseries comes on top of destruction brought by Hurricane Katrina, which was responsible for $10 million in crop losses and much more in facility damage and market losses.
Wholesale ornamental plant sales in Louisiana are estimated at about $120 million a year, and businesses generally have another $100 million in plant inventory, Owings said.
The state’s nursery industry and the accompanying commercial landscaping businesses provide annual contributions to Louisiana’s economy of more than $2.2 billion in gross sales. They also employ nearly 57,000 people in the state, Owings said.
"Of the 1,350 Louisiana nursery stock dealers – ranging from independents to mass merchandisers who sell plants through the retail market – more than 24 percent are located in the parishes affected by Hurricane Rita," Owings said, adding, "This latest blow to the industry comes a month after 27 percent of the garden centers in the state were affected by Hurricane Katrina."
Retail garden center trade statewide boasts sales between $500 million and $600 million a year, Owings pointed out.
More than 150 wholesale grower businesses are in the southwestern and south central portions of Louisiana affected by Hurricane Rita. Owings said the latest hurricane’s damage is primarily in Allen, Acadia, Beauregard, Cameron, Calcasieu, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Lafourche, Terrebonne, Vermilion and St. Mary parishes – although some minor crop damage also occurred in Evangeline, St. Landry, Iberville, Rapides and possibly St. Martin.
"Louisiana’s green industry is suffering major setbacks because of the active 2005 hurricane season," Owings said. "In addition to the grower and garden center damage in the affected parishes, market losses for wholesale growers have occurred because of the loss of landscape business in Orleans, St Bernard, St Tammany, Plaquemines and Calcasieu parishes.
"The devastation in southern Mississippi also has hurt Louisiana nursery producers, since that area was a major market for Louisiana wholesale nursery crops," he said. "Even worse, retail garden centers outside the hurricane affected areas in Louisiana have seen significant business declines during September and early October."