SC farmers adjust business in response to coronavirus crisis

State News

WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- We’ve looked at how the coronavirus is impacting several industries here in the state from hair salons to small businesses to the trucking industry. But South Carolina farmers are also feeling the impact of the coronavirus crisis. On a normal day at the State Farmers Market in West Columbia there would be dozens of vendors set up, but on Thursday there were only two.

Ernest and Ann’s Produce was one of two stands open on what would usually be a busy day. A sign the coronavirus is having an impact on the state’s agriculture industry. Wholesale produce companies across the state have had to switch to direct sales.

“We have adapted by starting a produce box program. It’s a $30 box that contains a variety of fruit that changes each week,” said Zach Senn with Senn Bros. Produce.

The agriculture industry brings in more than $40 billion into the state’s economy each year. But the coronavirus’ impact is causing a decrease in prices.

The commissioner of the SC Department of Agriculture, Hugh Weathers, explained how international trading is being effected.

“As the international trade slowed with the virus, so have the markets for those products. the value of cotton is at the lowest point in some 20 odd years.”

On the other hand, some agribusinesses are seeing a boost in sales because more people are staying at home. Instead of buying produce at a grocery store many people are opting to grow their own. That change in trend was noticeable at Wolfe Nursery.

“Yesterday an 18 wheeler truck came in with 41 carts 70% were vegetables and it was all gone in less than 6 hours,” detailed Jim Nelson.

A relief package that passed in Congress last week includes money for world trade commodities and a fund to help small farms struggling during these times.

But all farmers agree the outlook for the rest of the year is as uncertain as the weather.
Nelson continued, “Our flower show was supposed to be April 15th that was the biggest event of being out here. So that’s easily a $30thousand weekend that doesn’t occur.”

“Our biggest concern is to keep all our employees staffed if conditions do not improve,” added Senn.

SCDA has issued guidelines for farmers to follow while selling produce at the state farmers markets. Some of those guidelines include wearing gloves, not shaking hands, and doing away with demonstrations and sampling.

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