Cold delays peaches, watermelon, doesn't harm blueberries - The Packer

Cold delays peaches, watermelon, doesn't harm blueberries

05/10/2013 09:42:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

A cold spring is expected to delay the start of Georgia’s peach deal and could produce a gap between the ending of Florida and the start of Georgia’s watermelon deal.

The state’s blueberries escaped serious cold weather damage.

Blueberries

Buyers should expect strong volume and good promotable blueberry supplies.

Estero, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC’s growers began harvesting April 13 as normal.

Brian Bocock, the Grand Junction, Mich.-based vice president of product management, said he expected production to enter its peak in early May.

“Quality looks good and supplies will be fairly solid,” he said in late April.

“The big difference for Georgia is it won’t be overlapping with Florida quite like we earlier thought. It should be a uniform marketplace as we moved into the early part of May and there should be opportunities for promotions.”

Though the southern highbush, the state’s first crop, declines in late May, Bocock said buyers should expect strong production through then when its second crop, the rabbit eye variety, begins.

He said bigger promotions should start the first week in June on pints in Georgia and North Carolina.

North Carolina production should begin in a small way in mid-May and, like Georgia, finish in mid-July.

In late April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported trading “very active for light supplies.”

The USDA reported flats of 12 1-pint cups with lids of blueberries from south Georgia selling for $32-35, and 12 6-ounce cups with lids selling for $22-25.

Wish Farms in Plant City, Fla., began light Georgia harvesting April 17.

J.C. Clinard, senior vice president, said he expects volume to increase and hit promotable volumes in early May and overlap with Florida production. Wish plans to finish Florida on May 20.

“The Georgia berry crop looks very good,” Clinard said in late April. “We have good quality. It is just a slower than usual start because of the warmer winter and colder March. We haven’t had a lot of chill hours, which slowed us down.”

In late April, Bocock characterized Florida production as strong.

That deal should finish shipping in volume by mid-May, with growers only harvesting small volumes for a few weeks after that.

Peaches

This year’s Georgia peach harvest should start May 20, sources said.

That’s three weeks later than last year but close to the deal’s typical start.

Low February and March temperatures helped push the crop to a later start and caused some isolated damage but nothing that significantly affected the crop, said Duke Lane III, vice president of sales with Lane Southern Orchards, Fort Valley, Ga.

“The crop looks great,” he said in late April.

“At this point relative to last year, we feel we have a bigger and healthier crop. The fruit size and the size of the overall crop should be bigger. We feel the cool weather in February and March will really make for a sweet crop this year.”

Lane said the state’s growers should begin around May 25 and said packinghouses should begin producing strong volume in late May.

Will McGehee, sales manager for the Genuine Georgia Group and Pearson Farm in Fort Valley, said winter brought enough chill hours and a mild spring helped fruit development.

“We are really looking at a great fruit set,” he said in late April.

“The trees look healthy, and we’ve had a lot of rain. We may start a week later than normal but should also go a week later too.”

Last year, the peaches didn’t receive enough cold hours in dormancy. McGehee said the deal started well and growers enjoyed a favorable season through the middle of it, but said it ended in mid-July, a month sooner than usual.

Georgia this season is expected to pack more than 2 million 25-pound half-bushel cartons, higher than last year’s 1.4 million, McGehee said.

The USDA wasn’t reporting peach prices in early May.

South Carolina normally begins harvesting in late May and harvests through early September.

Watermelon

An expected later than normal start could produce a week to a 10-day gap during the normal early June start of Georgia’s watermelon harvesting.

Because of heavy rainfall during plantings, grower-shippers don’t expect production to begin until June 15-20 instead of its usual June 5 start.

The start, however, should be in time to supply Fourth of July promotions, said Greg Leger, president and partner in Leger & Son Inc., Cordele, Ga.

In late April, Leger said Georgia growers finished most of their plantings.

While some growers may start harvesting during the normal time, Leger said he doesn’t expect volume to hit until mid-June.

The USDA reported prices of 29-30 cents a pound for red-flesh seedless Florida watermelon in early May.

Georgia normally finishes after July 4.



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