More details are becoming available on that mid March hard freeze that hit crops from North Carolina to Southern Georgia. Spring produce shipments from the Southeast will definitely be affected.
Georgia Blueberry Shipments
That March 15-17 freeze could reduce Georgia blueberry shipments by as much as 75 percent this spring, costing the industry $400 million. At best, there is hope “only” 60 percent of the crop was lost, but it could easily be higher in the south-central areas of Georgia, which is heart of blueberry production.
In this area, covering about 50 miles, 60 to 70 percent of Georgia’s blueberry crop is located. Some farmers have lost 100% of their early production rabbiteye crop. Temperatures in the area dropped to as low as 21 degrees for three nights in a row in mid-March.
Georgia Peach Shipments
Georgia peach orchards, primarily located in the Ft. Valley area, may have faired better than blueberries. Shipments may be reduced by “only” 40 to 50 percent. The lack of chill hours in middle Georgia had delayed the budding process. Now those buds are emerging, but growers now have to take a wait and see approach. Because the peaches were so late, it may have protected the crop.
Still, later on, there’s what is called the “May drop,” where any damaged peaches could start falling from trees.
Vidalia Onion Shipments
Escaping freeze damage was the Vidalia sweet onion crop. Shippers are still making normal plans for the official April 12 opening shipping date. It is described as one of the best crops in years.
Georgia Vegetable Shipments
Freeze damage to Georgia vegetables is all over the board. Bell peppers and other summer vegetables will be lost, while others veggie are expected to be slowed, but not fatally harmed by the weather. It will be awhile before accurate information is available…..As for Georgia watermelon shipments, there is believed to be some losses, but it should be relatively minor.
North Carolina Fruit Shipments
There is widespread damage to peaches and blueberry crops, but little specific information is available at this time.
South Carolina Produce Shipments
We’ll have a report on Monday, March 27th regarding South Carolina, which actually ships more peaches than Georgia or North Carolina in a normal season.