While it’s still early days in assessing the full impact of Hurricane Ian on the baking industry, as of Sept. 29, several companies were adjusting to keep their operations running by managing power outages, cell tower outages and severe flooding in central Florida.
Paul Baltzer, vice president, communications at Flowers Foods, Inc., said efforts were ongoing to navigate the effects of power and cell tower outages.
“Power is a big issue and cell towers are down,” he said. There were still a lot of unknowns, he added, considering whether company trucks would be able to deliver products in the face of floods through central Florida.
Mr. Baltzer said if a driver encounters even a foot and a half of water on a roadway, it could interfere with the company’s ability to fulfill deliveries. He said he was encouraged by the collaboration within the Flowers organization.
“All the sister bakeries in New Orleans and Atlanta are pulling together to provide logistical support if necessary,” he said.
Greg Toufayan, who leads operations at Toufayan Bakeries in Orlando, said the company had planned to shut down operations very early on Sept. 28 and start on the morning of Sept. 30. The company hadn’t made changes to that plan as of Sept. 29.
“It’s a bit early but we seem to be OK so far,” Mr. Toufayan said.
Campbell Snacks, which operates a facility in Lakeland, Fl, said all its employees were safe and there was no damage to its plant. The company was resuming operations on Sept. 29.
Ardent Mills’ new flour mill in Port Redwing on the east side of Tampa Bay escaped damage from Hurricane Ian, a massive storm that swept through the southwest and central part of the state on Sept. 28.
Troy Anderson, vice president of operations, said the Port Redwing facility, which is located just several hundred yards from the sea, did not sustain any damage
“All of our team members have also checked in safe to date, some with minor property damage and power outages,” Mr. Anderson said.
As of Sept. 27, the storm was projected by most forecasters to make landfall near Tampa, which likely would have caused catastrophic damage to coastal property in the area. However, the category 4 hurricane turned east on Sept. 28 and made landfall near Fort Myers in southwest Florida.
Ardent Mills opened the new mill, which has daily production capacity of 17,500 cwts, in March. It replaced a mill located inland that the company sold in 2018 to the city of Tampa.
Built at a cost of over $100 million, the mill is situated on a CSX rail line and also can receive wheat by ocean vessel.
In most cases, it was too early to determine damage to agricultural production areas in the path of Hurricane Ian. Other major industries expected to be affected by the storm included sugar cane and citrus.
Hurricane Ian skirted north of the major sugar cane growing region in Florida, although heavy rainfall from the outer bands of the storm were expected to delay the start of harvest that was scheduled for Oct. 1. Some sugar cane refineries in Florida were not yet running because the harvest had yet to begin.
The Imperial Sugar Co. refinery in Savannah, Ga., made contingency plans as the storm was forecast to churn northward up the US East Coast after crossing over Florida. A company source said shipments were moved earlier in the week under the assumption logistics would be snarled in the region at a minimum because of the hurricane. The plant was prepared to close if there was an evacuation order in the Savannah area.
New York Frozen concentrated orange juice futures surged more than 5% on Sept. 28 after rising more than 2% in the prior session on concerns about damage to Florida’s citrus crop. Prices already were higher due to production in 2021-22 that was the lowest in nearly 80 years. The storm had the potential to impact about 375,000 acres of citrus groves, including the three top producing counties, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The initial 2022-23 orange production forecast will be issued by the US Department of Agriculture on Oct. 12 with new crop harvest nearing.