Freezing Temperatures Hit South Carolina Crops Hard

Freezing Temperatures Hit South Carolina Crops Hard

Last week, temperatures dipped to record lows, and now South Carolina peach farmers face the worst crop damage they have seen in 10 years. Strawberries and blueberries were among other crops damaged during the freeze. Peaches were hit significantly, with 80% or more of the crop damaged, and similar numbers are expected to come in for the blueberry crop.

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Members of the South Carolina Peach Council and other industry representatives met Monday morning to discuss the severity of the damage to the peach crop, which was in early bloom due to an unseasonably warm winter. Growers are hopeful to have 10% to 15% of their usual crop.

Statewide, strawberries have experienced a 15% loss. Midland and upstate blueberry growers in the state are reporting a significant loss, similar to that of peaches. Information is still being gathered from blueberry farms in the lower part of the state.

“Peaches are a signature South Carolina crop, and this weather anomaly has devastated peach farmers,” said Hugh Weathers, South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture. “However, as South Carolina farmers have shown time and again, they are resilient and with the help of allied-industry partners, they will survive this devastating blow.”

The freeze will impact more than just the fruit. Peach orchards are major economic drivers in rural communities and support more than 1,500 jobs statewide. Growers are still assessing the damage and do not expect to know the total impact of the freeze for at least three weeks.

South Carolina is the largest peach producing state on the East Coast and is second only to California nationally. The annual peach crop has a value of $90 million with a $300 million economic impact.