Georgia fresh fruit survives freezes, flooding - The Packer

Georgia fresh fruit survives freezes, flooding

05/04/2009 03:33:27 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

“If the weather straightens out, we will be fine in Georgia,” he said in late April.

Flooding caused difficulties because growers couldn’t replant when the fields still had standing water, Leger said.

Leger said the torrential rains and strong winds could cut Georgia acreage by 15%, but that the deal should provide sufficient supplies if the growing regions aren’t hit by additional unfavorable weather.

Melon harvesting for Leger is expected to start around June 10.

Brian Arrigo, president of Southern Corporate Packers Inc., Immokalee, Fla., said most of his Milan, Ga., production survived the harsh weather.

“Some of the low spots may have flooded, but we had held off on planting in most of the farms,” he said. “Everything made it through there fine.”

Arrigo said he expects his Georgia production to begin later than normal in mid-June after finishing his northern Florida deal.

Leger said he expects a smooth transition from Florida growing regions to Georgia’s.

He characterized last season as strong.

Though the deal at times got a little long on fruit, Leger said prices adjusted and kept product flowing, compared to several years ago when shippers tried to hold prices at 20 cents per pound, and slowed movement.

In early April, during the start of Florida’s watermelon deal, Leger quoted 26-28 cents per-pound for cartons of red flesh seedless.

Leger plans to pack 600 loads of 58 bins, or 34,800 bins, this season from Georgia.

Georgia’s watermelon season normally starts in Cordele June 10 and runs through after July 4.

On cantaloupe, Daniel Whittles, director of marketing and product development for Rosemont Farms Corp., Boca Raton, Fla., which markets for Tifton, Ga.-based Lewis Taylor Farms Inc., said he expects to have a strong athena deal.

“With all of the rain they have had up there, everyone with their little segment of the marketplace is trying to figure out if they will make it through,” he said in late April. “It would be impossible to think yields won’t be impacted. We hope this year to see ample amounts of fairly decent and big-sized fruit early on in the deal.”

Because of planting delays, Whittles said Rosemont’s production could be a week or so behind schedule, but otherwise should produce a strong season. He said his production appears to be in good shape as partner Lewis Taylor Farms planted most of its early melons on high ground.

Whittles said he expects to begin pickings around May 25 with peak production hitting June 10 through early July.

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