Many in the Georgia produce industry say consumers aren’t buying as much fresh produce as they have in past years and aren’t sure how demand will be this year.

Steven Johnson, sales manager for South Georgia Produce Inc., Lake Park, Ga., said the economy has affected demand in the industry.

“Without a doubt, demand has been down,” Johnson said. “I believe many consumers have been reluctant to pay higher prices for fresh product. Also growers have not gotten help from the retail customers as far as lowering their prices to promote increased movement and consumption.”

Joey Johnson, president and co-owner of J&S Produce Inc., Mount Vernon, Ga., said he hopes consumers will continue to buy his company’s produce, but sometimes he is concerned consumers may skip fresh produce.

Shay Kennedy, vice president of Georgia Vegetable Co. Inc., Tifton, Ga., concurred.

“I think the produce industry has been affected by the economy because, when people make less money it causes them to buy mostly can or frozen foods,” Kennedysaid. “Unfortunately, fresh produce has to be eaten quicker. Therefore, they don’t buy as much fresh produce

However, Jon Schwalls, director of operations for Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable Inc., Norman Park, Ga., said the economy has not affected Georgia’s fresh produce industry terribly, Schwalls said.

“I’ve been surprised at times with how movement has been,” Schwalls said.