After an unusual winter that affected a variety of crops, Georgia growers are ready to move into summer crops that appear to provide good volume and quality.
As previously reported in The Packer, this winter’s mild temperatures followed by a mid-March freeze severely damaged the Georgia blueberry crop.
While the later-blooming rabbiteye crop was nearly wiped out by the freeze, highbush blueberry varieties fared better.
Berries are already shipping and should continue through June, said Brian Bocock, vice president of product management for Salinas, Calif.-based Naturipe Farms.
Up until the freeze, Georgia estimated total volumes of blueberries for the fresh and processed markets of around 80 million pounds, Joe Cornelius, president of J&B Blueberry Farms Inc., Manor, Ga., and chairman of the Georgia Blueberry Commission, said in February.
A lack of chill hours in 2016 held production down to a total of more than 70 million pounds, with about 45 million pounds going to the fresh market.
Georgia’s record year of blueberry production was 96 million pounds total volume in 2014, 58 million pounds of which went to the fresh market.
Georgia peaches are on track to start in the latter half of May.
With a mild winter, high chill varieties didn’t get all the cold nights needed to blossom, and then the mid-March freeze hit.
“It did some damage, but not bad,” said Duke Lane, director of sales for Lane Southern Orchards in Fort Valley, Ga., and president of the Georgia Peach Council.
Lane anticipates volume will be off in general.
“Quality is good, but some growers are showing a 25% to 35% impact on volume.”
Last year, Georgia growers produced 43,000 tons of peaches, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Susan Waters, executive director of the Vidalia Onion Committee, has been seeing good supply and quality around the Vidalia area.
“Packing started April 12. The weather was warm and dry, so we would anticipate high volume and a very good yield,” she said.
Prices were running slightly lower than last year, with f.o.b.s for 40-pound boxes of jumbo onions at $12-13 on May 1, according to the USDA.
John Browder, sales manager for Belle Glade, Fla.-based Pioneer Growers Co-op, said green beans started the first week of May, earlier than normal.
“We expect them to be light at the start, then become normal through mid-July,” he said.
Georgia sweet corn was on track for a mid-May start, with initial light volumes building to heavy volume from June through July Fourth.
Squash and zucchini
Most Georgia squash and zucchini started a couple weeks before the normal early May start, and should run through June, said Katie Murray, director of marketing for Southern Valley Fruit and Vegetable Inc., Norman Park, Ga.
Peppers and zucchini were hit by the March freeze, she said. Southern Valley had to replant zucchini, which puts it about a week behind yellow squash.