(April 24) Cold weather in February and March has thinned Georgia’s early peach varieties — yielding bigger sizes — and later crops were looking good. In South Carolina, production should be up from a year ago.

Kathy Taylor, horticultural peach specialist with the University of Georgia, Byron, said that in the Brooks County region around Valdosta, all but one grower of flordadawns, flordakings and flordacrests had been wiped out by frost in February.

But those varieties make up about 35% of South Georgia’s crops, even though South Georgia accounts for only about 5% of the state’s total crop, she said.

The peach deal from this region would start a little bit late and finish in late June, Taylor said.

While a frost in mid-March also hit the Fort Valley region, hurting some low-lying areas, the total damage is not expected to be high, Taylor said.

The Fort Valley deal was behind about five or six days because of the warmer-than-usual winter and cooler spring. Peaches from the area would begin shipping around May 20 and last until mid-August, Taylor said.

Charles Walker, managing director of the National Peach Council, Columbia, S.C., said last year was the first time he could remember when Georgia had a higher peach production than South Carolina.

According to the South Carolina Agricultural Statistics Service, the state produced 85 million pounds of utilized peaches in 2001, down from 140 million in 2000.

According to the Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service, there were 125 million utilized pounds of peaches in 2001.
Martin Eubanks, senior merchandiser for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, said at an early-April preview conference at Hilton Head, S.C., that estimates for the 2002 crop were about 2,500 loads of half-bushel boxes.

Eubanks said packing would begin around May 15 with heavy volume starting the third week of June. Steady volume would remain until mid-August, with some supplies available as late as September.

This year’s crop is shaping up to be the state’s best since the mid-90s, Eubanks said.

Willie McRae, owner of McRae Produce Co. Inc., Mount Pleasant, S.C., said he anticipated an excellent crop this season in terms of quality.

McRae said shipping should start during the first week of June. Main volume would be from June 15 to August 25, he said. He said sizing should be good, because his grower, McLeod Farms of McBee, S.C., irrigated each tree individually. He said he anticipated sizing of 2 1/2 inches and larger.