For almost all Southerners, a summer without a seemingly endless supply of peaches is unthinkable. But growers say the unthinkable is about to happen in America’s cobbler belt. A double punch of unseasonably warm winter weather and an ill-timed freeze has devastated the peach crop.
Production in Georgia might be a quarter of what it was in 2016, when the state produced 43,000 tons of peaches, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. In South Carolina, which is second only to California in peach production, the numbers are as bad or worse. As much as 85 to 90 percent of the state’s peach crop is gone, according to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. The state’s peaches usually bring in about $90 million a year, and their impact on the greater economy is three times that much.
“It’s just really, really bad,” said Juan Carlos Melgar, an assistant professor of pomology at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C. “Historically bad.”