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Georgia Vegetable Estimated Losses Due to Hurricane Michael

By Esendugue Greg Fonsah, Andre da Silva, Bhabesh Dutta and Timothy Coolong

The UGA Vegetable Team recently conducted damage assessments aimed at preparing a comprehensive report to determine the potential losses incurred to the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Industry caused by the hurricane Michael. Calculations were based on the information gathered by the Vegetable Assessment Team, growers and county extension agents during farm visits in southwest Georgia. Total acreages, estimated percentage of damaged field, yield losses, and current prices for the various vegetable crops were taken into consideration.

There were significant losses per crop across the state of Georgia, but nothing compared to losses incurred in southwest Georgia, where most of vegetable crops are produced in the state. A portion of early maturing fall crops had already been harvested before hurricane Michael makes landfall. However, the majority of crops were still in the field, which increased losses to Georgia vegetable growers. For instance, bell and specialty pepper, eggplants, tomato, sweet corn, squash, and cucumbers sustained approximately 70 – 90% losses in the most impacted areas while other vegetables like cabbage, greens, snap beans and broccoli sustained damages from 20 – 50%.

Our estimate thus far depicts a total loss of $480.31 million to the Georgia Vegetable Industry. According to the Vegetable Team report the vast majority of initial crop damage was caused by the strong winds, which resulted in lodging or defoliation of plants. Further, damages were sustained after the hurricane due to “sunburn” of exposed fruit. This is because most of the foliage in crops were either damaged due to the strong winds.  It is projected that the secondary damage and losses will exceed initial losses caused by the hurricane. Losses were exacerbated due to power outages, which prevented growers from properly cooling or storing harvested produce.  Power outages also impacted the ability to irrigate crops remaining in the field.

These values are subjected to changes as it does not include property losses. Losses caused by hurricane Michael left a devastating blow not only to our farmers, but equally to the community and the Georgia economy at large.

For more information contact the Vegetable Team Members:

Dr. Esendugue Greg Fonsah, Professor and Fruits and Vegetable Extension Economist, Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics, Tifton, GA 31793. Email: gfonsah@uga.edu Tel: 229-386-3512.

Dr. Bhabesh Dutta, Assistant Professor and Extension Vegetable Disease Specialist, Plant Pathology.  Email: bhabesh@uga.edu Tel: 229-386-7495.

Dr. Timothy Coolong, Associate Professor specialized in vegetable production, Horticulture Department, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602.  Email: tcoolong@uga.edu  Tel: 229-386-7495

Dr. Andre Luiz Biscaia Ribeiro da Silva, Assistant Professor specialized in vegetable production, Horticulture Department, University of Georgia, Email: adasilva@uga.edu  Tel: 229-386-3806