In this installment of the ‘Agronometrics In Charts’ series, Sarah Ilyas studies the state of the US peach season. Each week the series looks at a different horticultural commodity, focusing on a specific origin or topic visualizing the market factors that are driving change.
According to the University of Georgia, the state normally produces more than 130 million pounds of peaches annually. This season they lost more than 90% of their crop after abnormally warm weather in the winter and a late-season freeze, says Dario Chavez, an associate professor of Horticulture. The last time things were this bad was 1955, according to Lawton Pearson of Pearson Farm in Fort Valley, Ga.
Theresa Crimmins, director of the U.S. National Phenology Network, admonished earlier during the year that a cold snap following such an early warm spell is detrimental to the plant cycle. As flower buds develop, many species lose their ability to tolerate cold temperatures, so a frost could destroy blooms and make produce crops and other commodities susceptible to spring freezes.
US Department of Agriculture meteorologist Brad Rippey claims that warm winters followed by a spring freeze have become more frequent in recent years. In 2017, for instance, a severe frost in March damaged several fruit crops, including peaches, blueberries, pears, and strawberries, in states such as Georgia and South Carolina, resulting in an estimated $1.2 billion in economic losses. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, temperatures in Georgia have increased by 0.8 degrees since the turn of the 20th century.
“U.S. production is expected to drop over 100,000 tons to 605,000 due to late winter and early spring freezes impacting crops in the top three growing states of California, South Carolina, and Georgia,” says Phil Lempert, an industry expert. There is already a noticeable scarcity of fresh peaches in retail stores. These shortages, accompanied by price increases, are expected to persist throughout the summer. Furthermore, consumers should anticipate elevated prices for canned and processed peaches during the winter holiday season. Prices climbed up to $31.52 per package in week 24, a 56% increase compared to the previous year.
Although South Carolina will have a greater volume of peaches compared to Georgia, a significant portion may not be packed. South Carolina’s peach harvest is expected to conclude by early August, particularly in terms of fruit packing. As per reports from shippers in California, it is anticipated that the state will yield full crops of tree fruit during the months of June, July, and August. This positive outlook can be attributed to favorable factors such as abundant water availability, sufficient chill hours, and minimal stress on the trees. These conditions are expected to contribute to production of fruits with desirable quality and size.
Pam Knox, a climatologist at the University of Georgia, says that orchards in the region are projected to have a more abundant yield next summer due to the anticipated arrival of an El Niño cool phase in the Southeast. However, farmers view each year as a risky endeavor, with the odds slightly diminishing with each cycle.
In our ‘In Charts’ series, we work to tell some of the stories that are moving the industry. Feel free to take a look at the other articles by clicking here.
All pricing for domestic US produce represents the spot market at Shipping Point (i.e. packing house/climate controlled warehouse, etc.). For imported fruit, the pricing data represents the spot market at Port of Entry.
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Written by: Sarah Ilyas