Will McGehee, a partner of Genuine Georgia Group, spoke with AgNet Media’s Josh McGill at the Produce Marketing Association’s 2017 Fresh Summit.
“These kind of catastrophic years have happened in 1955, 1975, 1996, 2007 and now 2017 — so five times since 1955,” said McGehee.
He said the devastation this season was due to a warm winter. Chilling hours (when the temperature is under 40 degrees Fahrenheit) are a determining factor in the success of the peach crop.
Normally, too many chilling hours result in crop loss for Georgia peaches. However, in 2017, it was a lack of chilling hours that cost growers their crop. McGehee said approximately 82 percent of the peaches in the state were lost this season.
Around May, McGehee said there were some peaches on the trees, but the number of peaches continued to decrease each week in the season. He said by the beginning of July, there were no peaches left.
The majority of Georgia peaches are grown by five growers in the state. “Probably 95 percent of the state’s volume is done by those five families,” he said.
“We’re the most consistent peach-growing region in the Southeast,” he said. “So odds are we’re going to have a great year this year, and that’s what we’re looking forward to.”
McGehee said he is looking forward to 2018 to begin recovery from this past season. He said there is optimism that the upcoming season will be a successful one.
“When you have bad years like that, you’re just waiting on the next good one to come,” he said. “So we’ve all got a lot of hope that it’ll be this year.”
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