Fulton, MO 58° View Live Radar Sat H 60° L 55° Sun H 69° L 44° Mon H 54° L 46° Weather Sponsored By:

Deep South freeze means fewer blueberries, peaches

Deep South freeze means fewer blueberries, peaches

March 20th, 2017 by Associated Press in Business

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Last week's deep freeze in the Southeast appears to have nearly wiped out Georgia's blueberries and South Carolina's peaches and seriously damaged a number of other crops like strawberries and apples.

In South Carolina, 85 percent of the state's peach crop is gone while the small pink blooms remain on the trees, according to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture.

Up to 80 percent of south Georgia's blueberry crop is gone, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said after touring the state late last week.

Between the two states, crop losses from the freeze could approach $1 billion, officials said.

Georgia might be the Peach State, but blueberries have recently passed peaches in value. Blueberries ripen faster in the warmer climate and can get into stores quicker than traditional blueberry growing regions further north. But not this year.

"We saw blueberry fields that had the potential to be the biggest and best crop of Georgia's production history that you would now not be able to find enough blueberries that survived the cold to make one pie," Black said.

Temperatures dipped into the 20s both Wednesday and Thursday morning. While mid-March freezes aren't unusual in much of the Southeast, many crops were blooming up to three weeks early because of the unusually mild winter.

South Carolina is the second biggest peach producer in the United States behind only California. Foodies are especially drawn to the state's peaches, considering them the juiciest and highest quality in the nation.

Officials said it is the most damaging freeze for the Southeast since the 2007 Easter freeze in early April.