Southeast peaches will be slow out of the gate due to an early-spring cold blast, which cause significant losses for some growers.

A freeze March 25 will cut into the early-season peach deal for Musella, Ga.-based Dickey Farms Inc. said Robert Dickey III, vice president.

“It will be a great crop mid- to late season, but we’re going to a little short at the beginning,” Dickey said.

Volumes will be lower than usual in May and the first half of June before returning to seasonal norms, Dickey said.

Losses could be as high as 40% for Lane Southern Orchards, Fort Valley, Ga., said Duke Lane III, vice president of sales.

With an early end to the Chilean deal and late start to volume shipments out of the southeast, markets should be very strong in May, Lane said.

In mid-April, very little fruit was still shipping from Chile, which was hit hard by September freezes. On April 15, 2-layer tray packs of yellow-flesh Chilean peaches size 56 were $50 on the New York terminal market, up from $24 for 48s last year at the same time.

The silver lining for Lane Southern Orchards, Lane said, is that quality and fruit size should be excellent and volumes normal in July, the peak promotional month for Georgia peaches.

“It naturally thinned the trees — unfortunately, it over-thinned the early crop — but the size on the later fruit should be really good. And we had a lot of chill hours, so the sugars should be high.”

Greencastle, Pa.-based Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc., which markets peaches grown by Taylor Orchards in Georgia and Watson & Sons in South Carolina, will likely start shipping the week of May 18, said Michael Blume, Keystone’s commodity manager for peaches.

Taylor Orchards and Watson & Sons were both hit by freezes, and will have a slow start, Blume said.

“We’ll have limited availability through most of June. We’ll be able to fulfill everyday needs, we just won’t be able to do promotions.”

Some buyers will likely source from California to meet demand because of the shortages at the beginning of the Southeast deal. But because of expected high freight rates, California fruit will be more expensive than usual for that time of year.

By late June, volumes and prices should return to seasonal norms, Blume said.

“We anticipate running promotions throughout July.”

Dickey Farms expects strong demand during the deal’s peak this summer.

“We’ve made a real push on Georgia-grown, locally-grown, and we have a good name,” he said. “We’re very encouraged with demand.”

Acreage is similar to last year for Dickey Farms, Dickey said.

Despite the March freeze, a cold winter has been good for quality and size profile, with big fruit expected, Dickey said.

“We had ideal chill hours, the bloom was excellent and we’ve had excellent rainfall.”

Blume agreed.

“I believe the quality will be excellent and the sizing very good.”