- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 23, 2006

FORT VALLEY, Ga. (AP) — Georgia and South Carolina growers report strong demand and decent prices for their 2006 peach crops, and consumers may find the fruit sweeter than usual because of weeks of hot, dry weather.

“We’ve had a phenomenal-tasting peach and excellent quality due to the dry summer,” said Bobby Lane, vice president of Lane Packing Co. of Fort Valley, one of Georgia’s major producers.

The higher prices and stronger demand are linked in part to problems with the peach crop in California, which produces about 76 percent of the nation’s peaches.

California’s warm winter and cool, wet spring are expected to cut the state’s production to 380,000 tons, 21 percent less than in last year, according to the U.S. Agricultural Statistics Service. South Carolina and Georgia usually vie for second and third place in production behind California.

South Carolina’s crop is expected to total 60,000 tons this year, 20 percent less than in 2005. Drought reduced the anticipated size of Georgia’s crop, but the state still should produce 42,000 tons, 5 percent more than in last year, officials said.

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