Another strong peach year planned, blueberries to hit record production

Georgia peach growers expect another strong season of shipments.

For their blueberry crop, grower-shippers say expected record production should provide retailers volume for strong promotions.

Grower-shippers report positive growing conditions. While Georgia’s peach deal usually starts in mid-May, an early bloom may see harvest beginning a couple of days earlier than normal, shippers say.

“The season looks great so far, and we have had ideal growing conditions,” said Duke Lane III, vice president of sales with Lane Southern Orchards, Fort Valley, Ga.

“Everyone is optimistic for a great crop. The weather conditions have been great.”

Lane said peaches thrived through some extreme winter cold and timely showers, which were followed by a very dry bloom period.

While last year saw a late bloom and a resulting tardy crop, this season’s earlier-than-normal bloom should being some peaches on ahead of normal, Lane said.

Lane called the 2010 season strong and a contrast to the 2007-09 seasons when frost dramatically cut yields.

“We are coming off a good season,” Lane said in mid-April.

“We literally left a good taste in everyone’s mouth for Georgia peaches, and we’re looking to build on that.”

Lane plans to ship 1 million 25-pound half bushel cartons, up from the 700,000 it shipped last season.

Pearson Farm, Fort Valley, plans to begin harvesting several days earlier than usual, a far cry from last season, which saw the deal often running five to seven days later as different varieties bore fruit later than normal, said Al Pearson Jr., president and managing partner.

Pearson called last season a normal and full crop. He said Georgia production should start in mid-May, about 10 days after south Georgia harvesting in the Valdosta, Ga., area begins in early May.

“We are looking for a normal crop,” he said in mid-April.

“We’re not looking for a limb breaker, but a normal crop. Customers should expect good supplies of good quality fruit throughout the season.”

Pearson said season prices often start like “a house afire” in the upper teens and low 20s, but will lower according to supply and how orderly the marketing becomes.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture did not report Chilean peach prices in late April because most of the country’s shipments had finished, but in early April reported these prices for Chilean peaches shipped to ports in Philadelphia: Cartons of two-layer tray pack various yellow-flesh varieties 40s sold for $12; 48-52s, $8-10; 56s and 60s, $8.

Last year in late April, the USDA reported Chilean fruit shipped to Philadelphia ports selling for $12-14 for 30-50s, $10-12 for 56s and $8-10 for 60s.

Overall, Georgia growers expect to ship 2.96 million cartons, similar to last season, Lane said.

Georgia’s deal normally runs to mid-August.

Buyers should expect plenty of promotional opportunities to market a predicted largest ever blueberry crop.

Ample peach, blueberry crops to start in May

Courtesy Naturipe

Georgia growers expect a record blueberry crop.

Mario Flores, director of blueberry product management for Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC’s Grand Junction, Mich., office, said the outlook is that Georgia could potentially produce a record crop of 70 million pounds, up from last season’s 56 million to 58 million pounds.

During the start of the southern highbush deal, Flores said growers expect to pack in 6-ounce packs and upsize to the pints during early May when promotable volume hits.

As the Southern highbush deal declines in late May, Flores said buyers can expect a small lull before the rabbit eye crop begins in early June.

Flores said a combination of the crop receiving favorable growing conditions with few weather problems, solid bee pollination and increased acreage should help boost production and make for strong retail promotions.

“Things are looking very nice and it’s shaping up to be a very good crop this year in Georgia,” Flores said in late April.

“There will be very good promotional volumes. The pint versus the 6-ounce pack will be the primary pack during the rabbit eye season as well. I think Georgia will contribute to a very good overall domestic blueberry season.”

Keith Mixon, president and chief executive officer of SunnyRidge Farm Inc., Winter Haven, Fla., said he expects the Florida, Georgia and North Carolina crops to hit their windows on time.

“Georgia will have a good crop this year,” he said in mid-April.

“In the end, May will not have as much volume. Compared to last year, when there was such a big wave of the Florida, Georgia and North Carolina crops coming on together, my estimates are there will be less volume for the first three weeks of May than there was last year.”

Mixon said SunnyRidge’s Georgia Southern highbush production should produce large volume until late May, when the rabbit eye crop is expected to start, and run through early July until rains send most fruit to the processed markets.

John Duval, SunnyRidge’s technical services manager, said Georgia quality looks high.

He said the growing regions experienced excessive chill hours, which made for a good bloom set and reset in most cases.

The USDA in late April reported flats of 12 4.4-ounce cups with lids of medium-large blueberries from central Florida selling for $20-22.85, with 12 6-ounce cups with lids of medium-large fetching $26-26.85.

Last year in late April, the USDA reported flats of 12 4.4-ounce cups with lids selling for $26-28.
Georgia’s blueberry deal normally runs through early July.