Florida Sod Industry Braces for COVID Impacts

(Not) Business as Usual:

Florida Industry Braces for COVID Impacts

Building was booming and real estate sales were brisk.  Beaches were crowded, golf courses filled with seasonal residents, and lawn renovations and installations were in full swing.  It was spring and Florida was being – well, Florida.

But as alarm over the Coronavirus increased and Miami gained national attention as a pandemic hotspot, business as usual came to halt.  Several Florida counties issued emergency orders closing businesses and limiting personal contact, and on April 1, Governor Ron DeSantis issued a 30 day Safer-at-Home order for the entire state.

The Florida order referenced national guidelines classifying agriculture, construction and landscaping as essential businesses, enabling sod farms to continue operations and many jobs to proceed as  planned.  However, it may be much later this year before the real impact to our industry is felt, and the depth of that impact will depend on the lingering effects of several economic factors.

Golf and Sports Loss of Revenue:  Florida golf courses count on seasonal revenue in March and April to offset leaner summer months.  With many seasonal residents either sheltering or leaving early, this revenue stream has been severely disrupted, causing planned renovations to be postponed or canceled. Sports venues impacted by loss of event revenue will likely follow suit.

Builders Press Pause:  Some of the state’s largest homebuilders have put projects on hold while others struggle to get permits and permissions from local governments that have all but shut down. Projects currently underway will likely proceed but may slow through the summer.  How quickly they resume will depend heavily on…

Job Loss and Consumer Confidence:  Over 1 million Floridians have filed for unemployment, including over 500,000 during the week of April 23 (Disney World alone furloughed 70,000 employees.)  It’s too early to know how many businesses may not re-open.  Florida also relies heavily on retirees; it’s hard to tell whether investment losses may impact their plans to relocate to the state.  In short, it may be some time before customers are confident about (or able) to buy new homes or renovate landscapes.  This will only be worse if there are new virus outbreaks.

DeSantis announced plans for re-opening the economy on April 29, saying it will be “measured, thoughtful, and data-driven.”  In the meantime, sod producers continue to care for crops, focus on employee safety, and do what we’re all doing: wait.