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Preliminary reports in COVID-19 impact survey show effects vary by industry

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As University of Florida economists cross the halfway point in their surveys of Florida’s agriculture and marine industries related to the impacts of COVID-19, initial reports indicate that impacts vary widely across industry types in terms of business closure rates, operations changes, and impacts to sales revenues and employment.

In one of the five surveys of the Assessment of COVID-19 Impacts on Florida, 200-plus charter/for-hire marine professionals responded to questions on the effects of the pandemic to their businesses, with 60% reporting business closures. The participants of this survey represent 33 counties around the state, with the largest number of responses so far coming from Monroe County.

For a separate survey on commercial fishing businesses, nearly two-thirds reported a shutdown of operations. More strikingly, nearly all of the 100 business owners representing 26 counties indicated their commercial fishing businesses had been affected by the pandemic and that the average length of that impact goes back to early March, even before many efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 were in full effect.

“We’ve only gotten a glimpse at the impacts so far, but the responses have been telling as to which areas of the economy are largely unable to continue their normal operations,” said Christa Court, an assistant professor of food and resource economics and director of the Economic Impact Analysis Program, who is leading the survey effort.

Court said the survey for agriculture and aquaculture producers, processors, and transporters encompasses a larger variety of commodities and operation types, so it’s harder to give a broad overview at this early stage. Still, nearly one-fifth of the more than 400 respondents, representing all 67 counties, reported no impact to their operations, with only 10% reporting closures.

“Both positive and negative impacts to sales revenues are being reported by different operations across all commodity groups,” said John Lai, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics who is also part of the data analysis team. “As we gather additional data, we can dig into what characteristics seem to be driving increases versus decreases. For example, whether this is dependent on markets served, commodity type, input supply disruptions, or location – we don’t have all the information yet.”

Andrew Ropicki, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics who is leading the marine industry analysis portion of the survey, agrees that more participation is key to getting the best overall view of the impacts to these sectors of Florida’s economy.

“We’ve received a good number of responses overall, but at current response rates, the surveys are not yet able to give us clear insights into each individual segment of the agriculture, aquaculture and marine industries,” Ropicki said. “We encourage business owners involved in any agriculture or marine industry to participate in the survey and help us most accurately illustrate the effects of the pandemic.”

The surveys opened on April 16 and will close on May 15. The five questionnaires are specific to the type of business and include background information about the business (operations, revenues, employment, and market channels); current status (open or closed, business changes if open, or reasons for closure if closed); impacts (change in revenues, employment, customer base, products/services offered); and willingness to participate in potential follow up or similar surveys related to COVID-19 or other disasters.

The surveys can be accessed at these links:

Court said follow-up surveys will likely be conducted in the coming months, as well, as the COVID-19 situation continues to develop.

Previous analyses for similar event impacts can be found at the Economic Impact Analysis Program website: fred.ifas.ufl.edu/economicimpactanalysis.

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The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.
ifas.ufl.edu  @UF_IFAS

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