Why Georgia Blueberries Might Be Left Out This Season

Subzero temperatures that swept through Georgia earlier this month caused damage to the state's fruit crops, the worst of which appears to be to blueberries grown in the southernmost part of the state.

In the mid-March event, temperatures dropped into the mid-20s in South Georgia and the teens in the North Georgia mountains.

Georgia Blueberry Commission Chairman Jerome Crosby says growers are still reviewing potential crop damage, but he expects early-flowering tallbush blueberries to be hit the hardest.

"If you had a tall bush without frost protection, it's gone," says Crosby. "The fruit was so ripe and the cold so severe that it was an instant kill for that crop."

Crosby said about 40% of Georgia's highbush blueberries don't have frost protection. Even with frost protection, growers could still see damage to 15-20% of their berries.

Rabbiteye blueberries, which bloom later, were generally not seriously damaged, Crosby adds.

The decline in the harvest raised other concerns. Retailers awaiting the arrival of early season blueberries may turn to buying imported berries. Crosby was concerned that domestic producers might not get that shelf space back next year.

“Most farmers have crop insurance, but they don't want to have crop insurance,” Crosby says. “The big losers are the packaging facilities. There will be no income without the fruit passing through the processing line. That's hard."

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