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Why Coronavirus Is Hitting Some Florida Farmers Hard ... And Not Others

Tomato plants
iStock
Farmers who service grocery stores are finding plenty of demand. It's the opposite for those who supply restaurants.

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting Florida farmers differently, depending on which market to whom local growers are selling.

Alicia Whidden, the Hillsborough County extension agent for University of Florida IFAS, said for most large commercial growers who sell to grocery stores, demand is up because people are cooking at home while social distancing.

Although, if you sell crops to the food service industry, she said that market has significantly dropped off because restaurants are either closed or only doing drive-thru and more people are cooking at home.

There are too many variables right now to project a monetary loss, but Whidden said things will become more clear over the next few weeks.

She said one thing is for sure, though: If you grow and sell tomatoes in Florida, you’re probably suffering right now.

“They sell not only to retail stores, but a big part of their business is the food service industry-- the slice of tomato that goes on your hamburger,” she said. “Their businesses dropped off.”

Whidden has heard that farmers are looking for other ways to sell their produce, but there is good news.

She expects the service industry to boom on the other side of this pandemic because by then, people will be sick of their own cooking.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Tuesday asking the federal government to make sure farmers are included in the $2.3 trillion stimulus package.

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