The Economic Impact of Covid-19 to the Georgia Fresh Food Industry

Summary

The economic impact of the Covid-19 to Georgia Specialty Crop Industry is huge. This economic forecast report serve as educational and professional guide for farmers, researchers and extension staff, lending agencies, policy makers and others in agriculture to facilitate decision making.

Situation

There are over 35 commercial vegetables and almost a dozen major and minor fruits and tree nuts produced in Georgia. The combined farm gate value of this dynamic industry is almost $1.7 billion in 2018. Unfortunately, most of the fruits (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, peaches, citrus, etc. and vegetables (pepper, squash, eggplant, cucumber, sweet corn, greens, onions, carrots, etc.), in Georgia are handpicked thus the need for seasonal, migrant and/or immigrant labor. Covid-19 was declared pandemic on March 11, 2020, when some of these crops were getting closer to be harvested. Major concerns were focused on H-2A migrant workers possible shortages. Although the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo provided flexible measures to relax H-2A program and improve travel to the United States in his March 20, 2020 White House briefing, Georgia Fresh Food Industry was still uncertain of the outcome as harvesting time for some crops was getting closer. It was also important for the industry and stakeholders to know the holistic impact Covid-19 would create, not only in terms of the fresh food industry value chain, but also the impact to the U.S. economy.

Response

As soon as the Covid-19 was declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020, it became imperative that an economic forecast analysis was necessary. The forecast would gauge the perceived impact and their effect to the farmers, industry, state and nation in general. It would further provide information on future farming, resource allocation and financial planning for all growers. We set out to investigate the impact to the specialty crop industry value and supply chain. Our studies were strictly based on economic theory and empirical evidence. Our goal was to capture the actual impact to the agricultural production, producers and consumers in Georgia and the United States.

Impact

Our studies ( https://site.extension.uga.edu/aaecext/) and various newspaper interviews (http://vscnews.com/coronavirus-uga-fruit-vegetable-impact/ ), and https://vegetablegrowersnews.com/news/covid-19-keeps-georgia-produce-farmers-from-hiring-labor-exporting-crops/ will be useful to growers in their daily decision making process and for policy implementation by the state legislators, stakeholders and congressional representatives, especially in making difficult decisions that would be helpful for the state, fresh food industry, GFVGA, and affected fruits and vegetable farmers. Growers and Stakeholders should think of these analyses as an awareness and preparation for the post-Covid-19 planning farm management and decision tool. This information will assist growers to decide whether to increase or reduce acreages or deciding to take a loan or not. Knowing that there will be a shortage which will eventually increase prices gives the farmer planning advantage. The impact of these studies to the $1.7 billion Georgia Specialty Crop Industry cannot be underestimated as better and timely information from research, extension and economics is needed by our stakeholders to sustain the industry.

State Issue

Sustainability, Conservation, and the Environment

Details

  • Year: 2020
  • Geographic Scope: National
  • County: Tift
  • Location: Coastal Plain Station, Tifton
  • Program Areas:
    • Agriculture & Natural Resources

Author

    Fonsah, Esendugue Greg

Collaborator(s)

CAES Collaborator(s)

  • Shealey, Justin S.
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Research Impact