Peach Producers Yearning for Bumper Crop in ’24

Clint Thompson Georgia, Peaches, South Carolina

Photo courtesy of Titan Farms

By Clint Thompson

No matter what state you are located in throughout the Southeast, if you are a peach producer, you are in dire need of a rebound season in 2024.

Peach production was at such historical lows in 2023 that growers don’t just need production to return to normal this year; they need a bumper crop.

Photo courtesy of Titan Farms

“It always hurts to have a short crop or bad crop, but there were just so few peaches this past year. Very few if any peaches got shipped to grocery chains,” said Lee Dickey, Georgia producer located in Musella. “It takes your name out of people’s mouths. The consumer doesn’t get to say, ‘Those peaches we got last year were so good.’ Now, you’re going back two years where you’re wanting that consumer to go and make that purchase. You really hope to have a good crop and have some people some high-quality sweet peaches.”

Unpredictable Weather

Weather conditions impacted last year’s crop, the worst in at least 30 years, says Dickey.

“A couple of things is, it’s not unusual to happen but in the order in which they happened; there was a late warm spell that got the trees to bloom a little early. We had a late freeze which is not unusual, either” Dickey said. “But that late freeze may only be 10% damage or 20% damage. Those two things combined together were 90% damage, very extreme. Hopefully, it’ll be a very long time before that happens again.”

South Carolina Impacted As Well

Chalmers Carr, president and CEO of Titan Farms in Ridge Spring, South Carolina, said growers are hopeful that the current cool temperatures will stay until at least Feb. 15. It would greatly reduce the chance of a scenario like last year happening again.

“Georgia, I think ended up with 5% or 10% of the crop, and we ended up with 25% in South Carolina. It was a devastating year for all of us. Probably the biggest concern is regaining market share. You lose market share to California, your retailers. How do you get it back?” Carr said. “But the thing that’s optimistic about this year is last year, we had weak chill and then also we bloomed really early when it got warm. This year we’re not accumulating any heat units. Hopefully, our bloom will be delayed and give us a better chance at that good crop.”