Georgia peaches starting lateFORT VALLEY, Ga. — Georgia’s peaches are running late and volume is considerably lower than normal.

Eating quality, however, should be good, however.

Packinghouses began packing the season’s fruit May 19, about a week behind the deal’s normal start.

After a series of seven different freezes during the winter and spring harmed fruit bloom and bud, grower-shippers plan to pack about 30% of a normal crop in late May and early June, said Duke Lane III, vice president of sales with Lane Southern Orchards.

He said the first half of the 10-week season should produce lower than normal volume.

“There is serious damage, but the final five weeks of the deal look to be real healthy,” Lane said May 20. “We are optimistic about the crop we have left, particularly in July. The flavor and quality of the whole crop should be great. Volume should be great in July, the month that made Georgia the Peach State, when we deliver the flavor.”

In late May, Lane said demand was encouraging and he characterized markets as strong.

On May 20, Lane quoted $34.65 for 25-pound 1/2-bushel cartons, a little higher than most years’ season starts but said the prices indicative of the shorter crop.

Last year in early June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported these prices for peaches from central Georgia: 1/2 bushel cartons of various yellow flesh varieties sold for $20.65-22.65 for 2 1/2 inches and higher and $16.65 for 2 ¼-inch and larger.

Lane Southern’s peaches were packing mostly in the 70s or in the 2.25-2.5-inch range, with a few 50s and 60s compared to the 40s, 42s and 45s packers typically pack in July, Lane said.

Georgia peaches starting lateLane and Pearson Farm began running their packinghouse on May 19.

The early season is seeing smaller volume but supplies should increase, said Will McGehee, sales manager for the Genuine Georgia Group and Pearson Farm.

Earlier, grower-shippers feared May and June would bring higher levels of damage but things are improving, he said in late May.

“Our early crop is hurt,” McGehee said May 19. “Though our first 2.5-3 weeks of the season is a lot lighter than normal, what we’re seeing after is good. When we freestones start, volume will take a huge jump in mid-June. That will set us up for when we need to be our best in July. We just have to get there.”

The cool spring, however, helped set the deal up for large sizings and great color, McGehee said.

In late May, Lane said Florida harvesting was slowing.

He said Georgia doesn’t normally feel Florida’s presence in the marketplace and said buyers can expect some overlap between the two deals as Florida finishes production.

South Carolina, which usually begins harvesting in late May, isn’t expected to start until early June, Lane said.

South Carolina usually harvests through late August after Georgia normally finishes in mid-August.

While California starts light harvesting by mid-May, the Golden State begins hitting big volume in late May.