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Freezing temperatures devastating for south U.S. fruit crops

Staff Writer |
Farmers across the Southeast are working to maintain their fruit harvests after a prolonged freeze left behind major crop damage.

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A blast of arctic air pushed into the Southeast during the week of March 13 and challenged record lows across the region.

On March 15, the National Weather Service in Columbia, South Carolina, warned of a “potential agricultural disaster” as freeze warnings stretched into central Florida.

In the wake of the freeze, peach farmers in South Carolina, the largest peach-producing state on the East Coast, are dealing with their worst crop damage in a decade.

The farmers are hopeful to have 10 to 15 percent of their normal crop this year, according to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture.

South Carolina residents looking for peaches will still be able to buy them in July and August, but in limited supply, the agency said.

South Carolina is second to only California in overall peach production in the United States. The state’s peach crop has an annual value of $90 million and an economic impact of more than $300 million.

The state reported a 15 percent loss to the strawberry crop and a “significant loss” to blueberries. The full impact of the damage from the freeze will not be known for at least three weeks.

In neighboring Georgia, officials told the Associated Press that 80 percent of south Georgia’s blueberry crop is gone. Additionally, the total losses between Georgia and South Carolina could amount to $1 billion.

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