Georgia fresh fruit survives freezes, flooding - The Packer

Georgia fresh fruit survives freezes, flooding

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

In 2008, Georgia produced 1,238 cwt. of cantaloupe from 4,500 acres, down from 2007’s 1,392 cwt. from 4,800 acres, but much higher than 2006’s 870 cwt. from 5,800 acres, according to the USDA.

Winter freezes that damaged 20% of the state’s buds caused a later-than- normal Georgia blueberry deal.

The deal, which normally begins pickings in mid-April on its early deal, started a week later than normal and was expected to hit promotable volumes in early and mid-May.

Growers and packers say they expect Georgia to begin pickings a week or two later than normal in terms of significant volume.

Georgia has two blueberry seasons. The early season normally begins in mid-April and runs through late May, while the later deal starts by Memorial Day and goes through July 4.

Keith Mixon, president and chief executive officer of SunnyRidge Farm Inc., Winter Haven, Fla., said freeze damage wasn’t as devastating as earlier believed.

“What shocked me the most when I was there was that the Georgia crop, though it’s a little lighter by bush versus last year, the quality should be fantastic,” he said in late April. “The sizing and the bush health are there. What we have lost in crop size, we have gained in quality and all parts of quality that make for size and appearance.”

Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC began its Georgia pickings in light quantities by picking from some of its leader berries off the bushes April 19.  The berries marketer, which has Georgia grower members in Alma, Manor, Baxley, Waycross and Valdosta, planned to have promotable volume for loading May 4-18.

“The crop is reduced some but the quality is looking good out in the field, so we look forward to a good season with Georgia blueberries,” said Mario Flores, Naturipe’s director of blueberry product management. “Though Georgia did see some reduction, there is still plenty of fruit out there to promote early to mid-May out of Georgia. In early to mid-June, there will be volumes for promotions on pints and larger.”

Mixon in late April, during Florida’s principal seasonal production, characterized prices as higher than last year. He quoted prices exceeding $24 for flats of 12 4.4-oz cups with lids medium-large from central Florida.

Mixon said he expects Florida’s northern and southern production to finish on time by May 15.

SunnyRidge plans to ship 10 million pounds of the estimated 25 million pounds Georgia growers expect to ship fresh this season.


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