For three years in a row, sudden weather changes have hurt South Carolina peach farmers. Early reports from the state Department of Agriculture suggest that 80 to 90 percent of this year’s crop is ruined and will not grow back. The cold snap last week brought temperatures below freezing for three days and could cause the state’s farmers millions of dollars in damages.
South Carolina is the second largest peach producing state in the nation. The state’s annual peach crop is valued by the Department of Agriculture at $90 million with a $300 million economic impact across the state.
McLeod Farm owner Kemp McLeod says the peaches that survived the cold snap will not display the best quality and are unlikely to be shipped out to national vendors.
“At best this will be a salvage crop, it’s not going to be anything we want to brag about or anything,” said McLeod.
Peach crops only bloom once a year, meaning that most of this year’s crop is ruined. McLeod said cold weather in March is not unexpected but early warm weather in January and February the last three years made his trees flower too early.
“We’ve been hit three years in a row,” said McLeod. “So we are going to look forward to next year and we will deal with this year as best we can.”
McLeod said he fared better than most peach farmers based on average losses reported to the Department of Agriculture but he still lost over 60 percent of his harvest. The farmer said he expects there to be shortages of the state’s famous fruit but they will not disappear completely.
“I think they’ll be some peaches in the state of South Carolina, I don’t think it will be a goose egg right now,” said McLeod. “I think there’ll be peaches out at local markets and they might not be quite as pretty as normal.”
The Department of Agriculture release says blueberry farmers in South Carolina also saw similar losses as peach farmers while strawberry farmers say they have lost around 15 percent of their crops.