Carolina growers prepare for summer deals

05/12/2011 02:22:00 PM
Coral Beach

Blueberries and peaches are heading into full harvest mode in the Carolinas, with growers and distributors confident the 2011 season will be one to remember.

Blueberries came on so early and so strong this spring that Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla., plans a major merchandising campaign for Memorial Day.

“It’s a strong crop,” said Brian Bocock, Naturipe vice president for product management.

“We had good heat to bring the crop on and we should have plenty before Memorial Day so we can promote pints for the holiday.”

The South Carolina peach deal should also be above average this season, with growers beginning harvest in mid-May. The state is the second largest producer of peaches in the U.S., second only to California.

Lynne Chappell is in charge of sales for Chappell Farms Inc., Barnwell, S.C., which markets Pat’s Pride peaches. Chappell is also president of the South Carolina Peach Council. She said last year’s bumper crop was, ironically, a bit problematic.

“Because of the large crops everyone was bringing in last year the prices were down a bit,” Chappell said, adding that Chappell Farms shipped about 200 truckloads of peaches last year, with about 1,500 boxes per truck.

“This year things are looking really good. We didn’t get the hail that other areas did, and we did have a cold winter that is crucial for bud set. The dry weather in early March was great for our pollination.”

On the vegetable side, Carolina growers are equally optimistic.

Sweet potato growers look forward to the 2011 season, even though it is still several months away. Growing demand for North Carolina’s official state vegetable is spurring growers to plant more acres, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Prospective Plantings Report.

With North Carolina being the No. 1 sweet potato producing state, it has increased acreage every year since 2005. Total production in 2010 was a record 9.72 million cwt., according to the USDA.

Janice Sizemore, co-owner of Saura Pride Sweet Potatoes, Walnut Cove, N.C., said her company is in negotiations with a potential new customer that could result in more acres.

“We are ready for it this year,” Sizemore said.

“We had some good soaking rains this spring and unless the weather goes bad we should have good yields.”

At Clayton Rawl Farms Inc., Lexington, S.C., farm manager Chris Rawl doesn’t want to jinx the summer season with too much positive talk. But, he said in late April that his squash and cabbage looked good. Those deals were expected to begin in May, with high yields.

There is a downside, though.

“We’ve got about a third of our acres in mixed greens and the cold winter was brutal for them,” Rawl said.

Rawl also said his strawberry crop is off this year because of the cold winter.



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