Southeastern and California peach shippers look forward to good quality and strong demand when deals kick off in May.

Fort Valley, Ga.-based Pearson Farm expects to begin shipping peaches about May 10, five to seven days earlier than usual, said Will McGehee, salesman and co-owner.

The warm winter in the Southeast concerned growers early in the season, but a cold blast in January delivered the chill hours growers needed, McGehee said.

“We got just enough,” he said. “We had a good fruit set, and the size is pretty good. It should be a good year for Georgia.”

The only possible effect from the scant chill hours would be on some late-season varieties, McGehee said.

Chile should be long done by the time Georgia fruit starts shipping, McGehee said, ensuring a clear pipeline for Georgia. South Carolina will likely start about 10 to 12 days after Georgia, he said.

California also should have an early start, but volumes won’t likely hit the East Coast until the end of May or early June, McGehee said. Based on the volume of calls from retailers as of early April, McGehee was anticipating a strong start to the deal.

“We’re expecting really good demand at the beginning,” he said.

On April 3, 2-layer tray packs of yellow-flesh peaches 34-40s from Chile were selling for $26 at Hunt’s Point Terminal Produce Market, up from $14-16 last year at the same time.

Reedley, Calif.-based Mountain View Fruit Sales Inc. expects to begin shipping peaches from the Reedley area by about May 5, with volume following 5 to 10 days later, said Dave Goforth, salesman.

The Arvin, Calif., area will likely begin shipping about ten days earlier, he said.

Goforth also expected brisk movement at the beginning of the deal.

“With Chile finishing early, the retail interest has been outstanding,” he said.

California growers enjoyed more chill hours than they’ve had in years, Goforth said.

“We’ve had great dormancy, a good bloom,” he said. “Everything’s been nice. We haven’t had any adverse storms bringing hail or anything like that.”

The size profile of California peaches looks normal thus far this season, he said.

Parlier, Calif.-based Sunwest Fruit Co Inc. expects to begin shipping California peaches about May 15, 5 to 7 days earlier than normal, said Doug Sankey, marketing manager.

Sankey agrees with Goforth that an early end to the Chilean deal should set up well for California.

“It’s been all positive up to this point,” Sankey said April 3. “I think retailers are geared up for good stone fruit programs.”