Georgia: No More Peaches In The Peach State

tendata blogTrade Trends News

ten data blog08-08-2023

Midsummer is peak season for Georgia's juicy peaches. But recently, Atlanta's peach cobbler factory ran out of peaches and was forced to turn to apple cobbler.

The Peach State lost more than 90 percent of its crop this year after a February heat wave and two late spring frosts. The triple whammy destroyed peach varieties specifically bred for different weather conditions and the dramatic increase in fruit prices. It also shifted much of the local market to California peaches.

But beyond the damage to jobs, the state economy, decades of tradition and restaurant menus, peaches are a source of pride for Georgians. The peach is the state fruit. It bears the name of dozens of state highways. It even sits on the other side of the Georgia Quarter.

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Worst harvest in decades

Some people just won't do it. "It's completely impossible to buy peaches from any other state," says Henryk Kumar, director of operations for Butter & Cream, a Georgia ice cream store. He says their summer staples, Peaches & Cream and Georgia Peach Sorbet flavors, debuted on July 1, but eat fast. He expects them to run out by the end of the month.

CNN spoke with farmers and agricultural groups who say they can't remember a worse peach crop. Sean Lennon, a farmer and peach grower at Fitzgerald Farms in Woodbury, Georgia, said, "I talked to (an older farmer) and he said 1955 was the last time he saw it this bad." For the state, "It was an economic loss, but it was much more than that."

The shortage forced Lennon to lay off many workers, including immigrant workers he brought in each year through the H2-A visa program. He said the lack of work has forced him to send workers who came to the U.S. to raise families back to Mexico early.

Peach prices climb

The wholesale price of peaches in Georgia has risen to about $40 from the usual $17-$20 a box. Some buyers say the wholesale price for boxes has climbed to $60 a box. But most Georgia farmers don't have much fruit to sell.

Restaurateurs still loyal to the Georgia staple are facing similar supply problems. Filipino restaurant Kamayan decided to combat the shortage by offering peach spring rolls only on weekends instead of every day.

Owner Mira Orino says that while her spring rolls are popular, she will remove them from the menu before switching to canned or out-of-state peaches.

But she said they aren't making money on the products they sell, considering the local prices. "We make a profit from other items. The peach spring rolls are a labor of love," Orino said.

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