Southerners may scoff at the idea of eating a California peach, but this year they may not have a choice.
The region’s crop was decimated by a one-two punch from Mother Nature. A devastating freeze coupled with warmer than normal winter wrecked the crops of Georgia and South Carolina, two of the largest peach growers in the South.
Georgia’s peach crop will be about a quarter of what it was in 2016 and South Carolina, the No. 2 peach grower behind California, has lost about 90 percent of its crop, according to the New York Times.
What’s that means for Southerners who prize their sweet peaches? For starters, it means a pricier peach, up to double the price over last year. And chances are the peaches they find in the grocery stores may be coming straight out of the fields of the central San Joaquin Valley – the leading stone fruit growing area in the state.
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“It really gives us a tremendous opportunity in those markets,” said Harold McClarty, owner of HMC Farms in Kingsburg, a grower of table grapes and stone fruit. “It really opens the markets for us.”
McClarty said a portion of the Valley’s crop of peaches that normally would go to Mexico or Canada are now heading to the South and East to fill in gaps in the market. And as for the idea that Georgia peaches are better than California’s, McClarty isn’t worried about the competition.
“Wait till they taste our fruit,” he said.