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All the makings for a great N.J. peach crop from Sunny Valley

Phil Neary, director of operations and grower relations for Sunny Valley International, headquartered in Glassboro, NJ, told The Produce News at the end of June that the New Jersey peach crop enjoyed a great winter chill.

“We had outstanding bloom by about April 15, with a full crop set,” Mr. Neary said June 28. “Then we had a heavier-than-normal bloom drop which helped to thin the crop out perfectly. We’re expecting a great crop, and we are tracking for a start right after the July 4 holiday.”

Good volumes of peaches will be available by mid-July, with peak volumes coming on the last week of July, according to Mr. Neary. The crop will run through the first or second week of September.

Each peach variety has about a 10-day run, he said, and the varieties run consistently with no gaps throughout the season to offer a steady supply of nice peaches.

“We measure quality by chill hours and what we are currently seeing on the trees,” he said. “Our barometer is how the nectarines look, and they are as clean as a whistle. That translates into great quality on white and yellow peaches as well.”

White peaches will start in mid-July, with peak season starting the last week of the month. The crop begins tapering down the first week of September. The strength in the white-peach category is the Klondike white, a large to very large, 90-100 percent pink-purplish-red skin, globose-shaped peach over a slightly cream-red ground color. The flesh is very firm with very good sweet and sub-acid flavor. The tree is vigorous and moderately to lightly productive. The Klondike is a beautiful and very firm sub-acid peach.

“The nectarine run is very similar to that of white peaches,” said Mr. Neary. “They start in mid-July, peak in late July and run through the first week of September, and then the crop starts to taper down.”

Mr. Neary also said that New Jersey has some really nice late-season peach varieties that don’t get out to the retail trade as well as they could.

“There is a post-Labor Day trend in which retailers want to back off on peaches,” he said. “Even if they tell us earlier in the season that they’ll want late peaches, they start to cut us off. Orders tend to drop way down. It’s a shame because we have really outstanding peaches through September 20 each year. We want the late-season support to help move this great crop.” He noted that many years ago, New Jersey was known for its apple and peach production. But over the years, growers got out of apple production and many tried instead to stretch their peach season.

“With late peaches coming in from the Carolinas, and retailers not supporting peaches after Labor Day, it’s hard to sell our late crop,” he said. “The New Jersey Peach Promotion Council and growers are communicating this to the trade through our marketing and promotional efforts.”

Mr. Neary serves as vice chairman and a board member of the council.

Sunny Valley has been a supplier of fresh fruits and vegetables to the North American market since 1986. The company added domestic fresh fruits to its line-up in the mid-1990s. Besides peaches and nectarines, the company markets blueberries, grapes, pears, apples, Spanish clementines and avocados.

Sunny Valley is known as a reliable supplier of key fruit items due to its long-term relationships with growers and exporters as well as its industry expertise and experience.

“We know who the players are and how to bring a quality fruit product to market,” said Mr. Neary. “We are committed to developing and maintaining long-term relationships with our growers, exporters and customers that allows us to conduct fair and honest trade in the produce industry.”