Plaquemines Parish growers reboot after Hurricane Zeta

S.E. Louisiana citrus growers recover from Hurricane Zeta

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Southeast Louisiana Orange growers say it will take years to recover from Hurricane Zeta. The storm couldn’t have hit at a worse time, and they lost three-fourths of their fruit.

This would normally be the prime of the harvest season for Ben Becnel, Sr.

“That trees no more good we’re gonna have to put another tree on the side of that one,” he said looking at a split tree, that’s already dead.

Dozens of trees are damaged or destroyed and 75 percent of his crop lies rotting beneath some of the most productive orange, Satsuma, and tangerine trees in the region.

Winds that reached up to 100 mph tore through Becnel’s orchards during Hurricane Zeta late last month.

It tore some trees out of the ground and twisted heavy fruit ripe for harvest off branches. The wind-facing, southern side of the trees were damaged the worst.

“It knocked all the fruit off one side and a half on the other side,” Becnel said.

Becnel has been growing citrus here his entire life and says Zeta was one of the most devastating hurricanes he’s ever seen.

“With Zeta, we got more wind damage than Katrina,” he said.

With the hurricane on top of coronavirus, Ben Becnel has been through a lot this year but he wants to share with the public that he has plenty of fruit left. But the grapefruit got the worst of it.

“It was a bigger piece of fruit, it’s the first to go,” he said.

Just down the road in Alliance, Tony Carter’s ‘Landridge’ wholesale nursery is also in shambles.

“We lost 10,000 poinsettias that got shredded and some vegetable transplants,” Carter said.

Carter also lost the roofs on 20 of his 26 greenhouses. Insurance will cover much of his damage, and though Zeta dealt a serious blow, these growers say they may be down but they’re not out.

“We will survive, we will be here,” said Becnel.

Ben Becnel must replant about 500 citrus trees. He says it will take three years for them to begin producing minimal yields in 4,500 of his trees survived.

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