Allen D. Owings, Merrill, Thomas A.
Louisiana’s nursery, landscape and retail garden center industry has incurred major damage due to the affects of Hurricane Katrina, according to experts with the LSU AgCenter.
Collectively referred to as the "green industry," these businesses across the state account for annual contributions to Louisiana’s economy of more than $2.2 billion in gross sales. They also employ nearly 56,700 people.
"Among the damage will be crop losses and damage to garden centers," said LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings. "But there also are going to be other effects, since large numbers of Louisiana’s licensed landscape contractors and landscape architects live in the affected areas."
Owings said initial estimates show the wholesale nursery crop loss is in the range of $10 million. Wholesale ornamental plant sales annually in Louisiana are estimated at about $120 million with another $100 million plant in inventory.
"These damage estimates do not include plant losses that may result from current or upcoming irrigation system failures," Owings explained, adding, "They also don’t include structural damage, facility damage, container yard damage, irrigation system repairs, cleanup costs and labor involved in pre-storm preparation and post-storm recovery.
To make matters worse, Owings points out that wholesale growers are faced with major market loss because of devastation in New Orleans that will change the face of the landscape industry and retail trade market in that city.
For the landscape industry, nearly 36 percent Louisiana’s licensed landscape contractors and horticulture service providers reside or do business in the areas most heavily affected by Hurricane Katrina. About 22 percent of the state’s licensed landscape architects are in the area.
But there is some good news for them, according to Owings.
"Some landscape professionals, particularly those living on the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain, will be actively involved in cleanup and landscape renovation efforts," he said.
Although estimates are still being gathered, Owings said he anticipates the devastation to retail garden centers also will be "major" in southeastern Louisiana.
"Of the 1,345 Louisiana nursery stock dealers – ranging from independents to mass merchadisers who sell plants through the retail market – more than 27 percent are located in the most affected parishes of St Bernard, St Charles, Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, Tangipahoa, Washington and St Tammany," Owings said, adding that retail garden center trade statewide boasts sales between $500 million and $600 million a year.