Around 80% of the crop was lost in the state after temperatures dipped below freezing in March, with a similar level of damage experienced to peach crops in neighboring South Carolina.
Georgia Peach Council marketing director Will McGehee said the campaign would typically run until Sept. 1, but volumes had been “non-existent” over the last couple of months.
“We have been finished since the first couple of weeks of July really,” he told Fresh Fruit Portal.
“We normally go right until around the end of August but it was cut short. We probably had half a season this year.
“We had some early fruit some good volume in May, and then each week after the first two weeks it got cut it half and eventually we just landed on zero, so it was a tough season for us.”
He noted while June and July were normally the peak volume months, this year that period saw only around 10-12% of the standard crop.
According to McGehee, similar levels of damage had been experienced during four other years over the last few decades – 1955, 1975, 1996, and 2007.
“It doesn’t happen very often to us, but when it happens it certainly hurts,” he said.
“We’re typically a very consistent deal but every 10-15 years we get something like this, and this was our year.”
He described the situation with insurance coverage as a “tricky game” as policies varied widely depending on the grower. But overall he said the level of insurance collected had not been nearly enough to account for the total losses and production costs.
Average prices were around 50% higher on average for the season, but McGehee said they needed to have been five-times higher to compensate for the reduced volume.
“We were able to fetch more money for our peaches but it certainly wasn’t enough to even come close to breaking even,” he said.
“Normally we start high and then as the season goes on and other growing regions come on the price starts to taper down. This season we started high like we normally do but the price just never moved. It just stayed very consistent from front to back.”
Although this may have been a season to forget, McGehee was optimistic the 2018 crop would be a strong one.
“History says we’re going to have a great season next year. That’s what we hold our hope for. Just like we always have done, we’ve bounced back after these catastrophic crops.
“We’re plantings and pruning and irrigating just like we’re going to have a big crop.”
Georgia peaches are marketed across much of Canada and the U.S. Eastern seaboard, and as far west as Texas and Minnesota, he said.