Peach poor in the peach state? Local produce company points to crop shortages

NLaws Produce is seeing the affects of a warmer winter followed by a deep freeze in their peach and blueberry crops this year. They are now outsourcing and that added cost will be passed to their customers. (Credit: Josie Gregory)

The peach state is a bit less peachy this year, but it's not for lack of trying.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture reports nearly 80 percent of peach crops across the state this year were damaged by weather.

"We like to have peaches because there are people who want them, and they want them from Georgia," said Jay Epstein, co-owner of NLaws Produce.

However, right now, the peaches at NLaws Produce are not from Georgia. They're from Alabama.

"There may be some Georgia peaches out there, but by now they're probably through," he said.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture reports a warmer winter made peach trees bloom three weeks early.

However, a deep freeze in the middle of March caused most of them to die off, leaving produce companies across the state looking for alternatives.

"You're probably going to see a lot from Alabama, North Carolina, maybe, and later on New Jersey," Epstein said.

Georgia blueberries are also almost a no-show for this year. The state is known for its peaches, but blueberries have recently surpassed the crop in value.

That's just not the case this year.

"The only ones we've seen from Georgia, so far, are from Alma, and they're already through as well," he said.

Now that NLaws Produce has to outsource, Epstein said their having to pay an extra $1 to $2.50 or $3.00 for peaches.

So, a box from Alabama will cost the company closer to $20 or $25 instead of the regular $18 or $22. The company's customers will have to pay for that added cost.

Epstein said a freeze has happened before, but never this bad.

"To hurt the crop like it did, it doesn't happen often," he said.

He hopes next year's crops will bounce back, and bring in even more peaches, blueberries, and profits.

South Carolina's peach crops have also been affected by the mid-March deep freeze.

The Palmetto state's agriculture department reports nearly 85 percent of the peach crops have been destroyed.