US(SC): Rain, frost shut down vegetable harvest

Heavy rains in South Carolina soaked vegetable fields and disrupted harvesting. Now, several weeks after the clouds cleared and the fields were drained, cold weather has definitively put a halt to harvesting for many of the state's growers.

“We had 12 consecutive days of heavy rain that let up at the start of October, and it was only a few days ago when the ground dried up and it was firm enough that we felt comfortable going into the fields,” said Esmeralda Sandoval of Del Valle Fresh, a tomato grower with fields in South Carolina and North Carolina. “Then we had a cold front that came in and the crops are all out of business with the frost.” While frost is not unusual for this time of year, the timing of its arrival is especially unfortunate for any growers who hoped to get some harvesting in after the effects of last month's storm cleared.

“The frost can come as early as late-September or as late as the end of October, so we kind of expected the cold,” said Sandoval. “The biggest concern was just to harvest everything as fast as possible so we didn't leave anything out there that's marketable.”

Harvests shut down
Early estimates put the storm's damage to South Carolina's agriculture industry at around $300 million, and that estimate doesn't take into account losses incurred because of damage to infrastructure like ditches, buildings and terraces. Of that, about $45 million worth of damage was suffered by the state's fruit and vegetable growers.

“The storm was a very significant event that ended the harvest of many of the state's crops,” said Martin Eubanks of the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. “Those that got flooded had their fields completely destroyed and others got so much rainfall that they couldn't continue to harvest. They had crews in the field that just had to walk away from peppers, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and leafy greens.” The storm is not expected to have any physical long-term effects on fresh produce growers, but its effects could linger for some of the state's smaller growers.

“The storm certainly had a financial impact, and that could be significant if a grower was struggling,” said Eubanks. “Overall, the state's fresh produce sector has continued to grow and become more diverse, so it's just unfortunate that the storm hit during harvest.”

For more information:
Esmeralda Sandoval
Del Valle Fresh
+1 863 234 8896

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