Late-season freeze devastates South Carolina peach crop

Late-season freeze devastates South Carolina peach crop

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Last week's hard freeze across the state has devastated the local peach and blueberry crops, and left the strawberry crop damaged as well.

A press release from the South Carolina Department of Agriculture stated that the state's peach farmers face the worst crop damage they have seen in 10 years. Strawberries and blueberries were among other crops damaged during the freeze.

Roughly 85 to 90 percent of the peach crop has likely been lost to the freeze.

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.

Farmers are hopeful to have 10 to 15 percent of their usual crop. Peach lovers can still expect to see local peaches in July and August in limited quantities.

Statewide, strawberries have experienced about a 15 percent loss. Midland and Upstate blueberry farmers are reporting 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, S.C. 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 farms are major economic drivers in rural communities and support over 1,500 jobs statewide. Farmers 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.

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