Southeast peaches to peak in JulyGrower-shippers and marketers of Georgia and South Carolina peaches are looking forward to promotable supplies of high-quality fruit this summer at the time retailers want them most.

Will McGehee, salesman with Genuine Georgia Group and Pearson Farm, Fort Valley, Ga., said Georgia shipments should start in mid-May, a week later than normal and two weeks later than last year.

But that’s good news, McGehee said. Fruit quality should peak in July, the month shippers want to promote most.

“Everybody’s excited about a late season,” he said. “Last year we ended so early, growers were looking at each other saying, ‘What are we going to do now?’”

Retailers were just as excited about the chance to promote the best-quality fruit of the season not only for the Fourth of July but in the weeks following, McGehee said.

Robert Dickey III, vice president of Dickey Farms Inc., Musella, Ga., also expects a mid-May start to the season.

Dickey Farms expects a more normal size crop in 2013.

“Last year was off a little,” he said. “This year is back to a normal, full crop.”

Both grower partners of Greencastle, Pa.-based Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc. — Taylor Orchards in Georgia and Watson & Sons in South Carolina — should be up and running in mid-May, said Michael Blume, Keystone’s commodity manager for peaches.

Keystone expects light supplies in the second half of May, but plenty of promotable volumes in June and July.

“Chill hours were adequate and the rain has been very good,” he said.

Rain can often pose problems, but because it came in February this year, when fruit was still dormant, it’s nothing but good, said Duke Lane III, vice president of sales for Lane Southern Orchards, Fort Valley, Ga. The rain should help fruit size, and the cold should mean outstanding quality.

“This year’s crop looks much healthier,” Lane said. “We’re really optimistic right now.”

Demand for Southeast peaches is already very strong among Keystone’s retail customers, Blume said.

On April 16, two-layer tray packs of yellow-flesh peaches 48s from Chile were selling for $20 on the New York terminal market. Prices were not available from last year at the same time.

Volumes should peak until about Aug. 10, then the deal should wind down about a week later, McGehee said.

The late start to the season was not only good for taking advantage of marketing opportunities, McGehee said. It also should help with quality and size.

“A cool spring is a recipe for a real nice crop,” he said. “They don’t sprint so hard. It’s kind of a slower cook on the peach, which really helps with quality and size.”

Dickey agreed.

“It’s been good quality weather to set the crop,” he said. “We avoided any adverse weather this spring. It looks like a great crop.”