Today we have some bad news and good news about the supply of peaches.
A Peach Massacre
They called it the Valentine’s Day Massacre…of peaches.
During February and then again in April, New Jersey, New York, and New England were struck by unusually warm weather and then below freezing temperatures. The warm weather tricked peach trees into thinking the time had come to bud. When the frost hit, they were doomed.
Because California sends us more than 60 percent of our peaches with South Carolina a distant second and Georgia in third place, we in the Northeast won’t be peach-less. But there won’t be very many local peaches.
Short Peach Trees
At the University of California, Davis, researchers have developed a seven or eight foot high peach tree. Typically 13 feet, peach trees require ladders that waste close to half a day from the carrying, climbing and descending that pickers have to do. When we add an elevated accident rate, the result is supply side inefficiency that ladder-free dwarf trees could solve.
Our Bottom Line: The Supply of Peaches
The USDA tells us that last year’s average price per pound was $2.06 while this week it was $1.56. So I assumed I had a national price and checked my local NJ supermarket. At ShopRite, peaches are $1.49 a pound!
The Dwarf Tree
It makes sense that peach growers would want to lower costs and raise efficiency by growing dwarf peach trees. From what I could discover though, the idea has not been embraced by farmers. A 1975 initiative and then one in 2014 appear to have generated little enthusiasm.
Our conclusion? For peach shortages and “mini” peach trees, the supply side is not always predictable.
My sources and more: From the Boston Globe to Modern Farmer (here and here), peach articles seem to be everywhere. And as always, for fruit and other agricultural prices, the USDA is a handy resource.