News has been sketchy so far, but The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and consumer estimates Hurricane Florence inflicted over $1.1 billion in damage to crops and livestock in North Carolina. Of that, about $27 million is damage to sweet potatoes, other vegetables and horticultural crop losses. North Carolina ships more sweet potatoes annually than all of producing states combined.
The numbers easily top the $400 million seen following Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
“We knew the losses would be significant because it was harvest time for so many of our major crops and the storm hit our top six agricultural counties especially hard,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in the release. “These early estimates show just what a devastating and staggering blow this hurricane leveled at our agriculture industry.”
According to the state’s agricultural department:
- Row crop losses are estimated at $986.6 million
- Forestry losses are estimated at $69.6 million
- Green industry losses are estimated at $30 million
- Vegetable and horticulture crop losses are estimated at $26.8 million
- Livestock, poultry and aquaculture losses are estimated at $23.1 million
- Livestock losses are 4.1 million poultry and an estimate of 5,500 hogs.
The state did not make damage estimates by individual commodities.
Sweet potato growers and shippers report it could be months before the full extent of losses may be determined. Sweet potato harvest in the state continued September 27th after Florence, with more than half of the crop remaining in the field.
Prior to the massive Hurricane and flooding, Nash Produce LLC of Nashville, NC expected sweet potato acreage to be down.
Southern sweet potato shipments has been declining in recent years primarily due to overproduction and poor markets.
U.S. sweet potato acreage in 2017 was down 2.45 percent compared to 2016, although yield per acre increased 16 percent. No official estimate has been made for acreage or volume for 2018.
J Roland Wood Produce Co. of Benson, NC expects a 10 percent reduction in yields this year as a result of a decrease in acreage after last year, plus several weeks of dry weather before Florence. The company had a 20 percent cut in yields from last year, totaling a 30 percent reduction in yield rate from 2017.
Ham Produce Co. Inc. of Snow Hill, NC had been harvesting a few weeks when Florence hit. SMP Southeast/Edmonson Farms of Vardaman, MS started harvesting in the last half of August. While quality was described as having very good quality, volume still wasn’t expected to equal last year. However, total shipments by the company were expected to be adequate to fill customer demand.
Bland Farms of Glennville, GA was expecting the company’s volume to be similar to last year.