Damage to SC peach orchards cripples local economies

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April 12, 2007

ALLENDALE, S.C.---Peach orchards across South Carolina are damaged beyond repair. The $40 million industry was handed a crushing blow after last weekend's frost and freeze.

The damage extends far beyond just the fields. This year's peach loss will impact local economies statewide.

"You know, you can look over the whole tree and just see damage," said Tommy Chappell of Chappell Farms, Inc. in Allendale. "It's going to be tough."

Chappell's 1200 acres are fruitless.

"This is just bad," he said. "It's 95 percent gone. I probably won't have any peaches to sell this year."

Chappell is just one of many South Carolina growers devastated by an early April filled with frost and overnight freezes.

Peach blossoms are shot and shriveled up, forcing farmers to swallow a $40 million loss statewide.

"It's a tough business to be in," Chappell said.

Your local produce aisle is affected, too.

"We're going to have to find peaches from somewhere," said Norman Ingram, a produce clerk at Reid's.

Picking up business from elsewhere could cost customers--transporting peaches from the West Coast, for example.

"If they come from California, we going to have to sell them quite high," Ingram said.

The economic impact doesn't end there. Chappell's seasonal workers will also be stripped of their wages.

"Usually I have about a hundred employees," Chappell said. "This is what happens. It's a gamble."

"You got to love this to stick with it, and it takes a whole lot of thick skin," he continued. "A lot of rhino skin, what I call it."

Chappell says the last time his crop was wiped out like this was more than 20 years ago in 1983.

He does plan on applying for federal aid. No word yet on how much he'll receive.

He, his father and brother have lost six figures worth of business.

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