Demand for fruits and vegetables grows

COVID-19 creates many uncertainties for South Carolina growers

Local South Carolina fruit and vegetable growers certainly faced their share of uncertainty in 2020. Edisto Research and Education Center Clemson Extension Vegetable Specialist Dr. Gilbert Miller: "Most fruit and vegetable growers make production plans well in advance of spring planting dates. Although there is some flexibility, most growers had plans in place at the onset of the pandemic; what was going to be planted, how much and where on the farm was established."

"Early in the spring there was some concern about growers’ workforces being impeded by seasonal workers not being able to cross borders, or becoming ill themselves," Miller said. "Fortunately restrictions were eased on H2A (visa) labor crossings from Mexico and labor shortages were not nearly as severe as anticipated. Transportation of needed farm supplies and fresh produce saw some logistic delays and restrictions of movement, which was cumbersome but was not widespread," Miller said.

Plus, there were serious questions about what the market for fruits and vegetables look like amid coronavirus-induced shutdowns.

While many uncertainties surrounded this years' crop, Miller said market prices for fresh fruits and vegetables remained stable ‘and above on-farm break-even costs’. There was one exception: the fall production of watermelons, which had previously seen an increase in acreage.

Commercial Horticulture Area Extension Agent Eulalio Toledo said most growers will stand to make some money this year. "Strawberry growers made really nice profits this season," he told "Shipping and pick-your-own. It was in place with social distancing and COVID protocols."

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