New Jersey growers getting the most out of their peaches

From The Produce News | 24 June 2024

Overview of peaches from New Jersey in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on June 24, 2024.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture reports that yellow flesh peaches comprise 90 percent of New Jersey’s output of peaches, white flesh varieties make up 4 percent and the newer doughnut, or flat peaches, are still only a blip in overall production at 1 percent.

The New Jersey Peach Promotion Council funds research on new peach and nectarine variety development and the handling in storage and market.

“To provide a better product mix, the Rutgers NJAES is developing new white and yellow fleshed peach nectarines, and flat peaches,” said Jerry Frecon, professor emeritus at Rutgers University and consultant for the New Jersey Peach Promotion Council. “New yellow fleshed varieties are Felicia, Evelyn, Selena and Tiana. New white fleshed peach varieties are July Rose, Anna Rose, August Rose and September Rose.”

The new white fleshed nectarine is Silverglo and yellow fleshed nectarines are Brigantine and Avalon.

“The peach and nectarine crop looks to be near the full crop of 2023 and maybe more in 2024,” Frecon said. “Every tree is loaded with fruit as growers have worked hard to thin fruit off to get good size and quality.”

peach volumes by history

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

That can greatly be attributed to the fact that New Jersey has an excellent climate for growing peaches and nectarines.

“With climate change, our winters are milder and we seldom lose fruit to low winter temperatures,” Frecon said. “While we can get spring frosts, we have not had to reduce our crop in the last two years. We have abundant soil moisture and if we can escape any violent storms of hail or wind, we can grow beautiful peaches.”

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Garden State producers harvest approximately 60 million pounds annually from almost 4,000 acres with a wholesale value of $35 million in 2023.

“On average, they are better flavored because the major index of quality is sugar,” Frecon said. “The more mature or riper a fruit hangs on the tree, the higher the sugar content. New Jersey peaches, because they hang longer, will be ripened or tree ripened and still be sold locally or close to the consuming market. If growers can do this the fruit is unique and truly Jersey Fresh.”

 One of the biggest challenges this year are financial risks.

“Reducing production and marketing costs like labor is a big cost in a crop like peaches, which is hand labor dependent,” Frecon said. “Competing for shelf space and market with peaches from other production areas is also a challenge, as is competing with other specialty crops particularly in our large retail marketing establishments.”

 In New Jersey, there are more and more growers doing their own retailing, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They are trying to increase on-farm marketing by U-Pick subscription marketing, building farm markets, community farm markets, festival and other forms of on farm entertainment,” Frecon said. “There are also opportunities for marketing to institutions, like schools, restaurants and other specialty markets.”

The opportunities for growth are there, Frecon said, and New Jersey has the excellent peaches that are ready to move the state to the top three.

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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