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Drought impacting Southwest Florida citrus farms

Parts of Southwest Florida got some much-needed rain Thursday, as the region has been experiencing extremely dry conditions for months.

While the rain is a source of optimism and may help the drought situation, one citrus grove producer said it’s too little, too late.

“We feel like the drought has certainly had an effect,” said George Winslow with Gulf Citrus Properties.

When the dry season is paired with COVID-19, it’s a one-two punch.

“We have had a disaster in Southwest Florida,” Winslow said.

“Because we had a warm winter, the fruit rapidly matured and so we have a situation where the fruit needed to be harvested earlier.”

The dry weather led the South Florida Water Management District to implement and continue with water restrictions.

“We’re about four and a half inches under where we need to be on average from the beginning of the year. We’re not going to make that deficit up with the heavy rains we’re seeing now,” said Chauncey Goss, chairman of the SFWMD governing board.

But there is an unexpected sweet side to the drought.

“When you don’t have as much water in the watermelons, your sugar content is higher,” said John Stanford, farm manager of Frey Farms.

SFWMD said it doesn’t anticipate changing course on water restrictions right now. However, it will take another look once the dry season is over.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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