Duke Lane Jr., the president of Lane Southern Orchards near Fort Valley, Ga., said the peach harvest began May 3, about nine days before the average start date.
“We’re busy picking and packing. I think we’re going to realize by mid-July to the first week of August that the crop’s going to be short,” Lane said.
Lane estimated his farm will pack and ship about 550,000 boxes containing 25 pounds of peaches each. That number’s about 200,000 boxes below his normal mark for a good season.
Across the two states, farmers said that ripe peaches are smaller than normal but that the taste hasn’t been compromised by warm weather.
“They taste wonderful; sweet, very sweet. The size is not so good,” said Sonny Yonce III, of J.W. Yonce & Sons in Johnston, S.C.
Though it’s likely the later varieties will grow larger, Yonce said he fears the size could hurt his profits. Smaller peaches are not “hot sellers” and the low demand lowers prices, he said.
As of May 10, South Carolina had shipped 131 tractor-trailer loads of peaches, said Desmond Layne, a horticulturist and peach specialist at Clemson University. At the same time last year, 106 loads were shipped.
Layne said the prices should hold steady for farmers across the Southeast because crops in other peach-growing states were damaged by freezes or hailstorms. California, the largest peach-producing state, has shipped a small volume so far this year, he said.