Ali Sarkhosh moved to America last October from Australia to conduct research on the peach industry in Florida. He is an assistant professor and Extension specialist in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida.
Many growers are concerned about the profitability of growing peaches in Florida. According to Sarkhosh, “The opportunity is huge! In the last few months, I have seen many growers who have had really good returns this year. If they can produce peaches from the last week of March to the last week of May, they can sell their peaches easily and make a good profit.”
There are some challenges, however. Sarkhosh says growers “need to improve their cultural practices, especially for the growers who want to send their fruit to the supermarket. The peaches have to be at least two and a half inches in diameter — less than that the market cannot accept.”
However, the grower can sell those peaches in the u-pick system. The u-pick system has a specific customer, but sometimes growers need to sell peaches to the market to make a profit. Selling to the market will also increase the area in which the fruit is sold. Sarkhosh said, “The size of the peaches would be a big issue for the grower who grows in big acreages, because they do deal with the supermarkets and they need to do the thinning at the right time as this affects the size. The best time for thinning is before peak harvesting … I think growers should put more effort into increasing the size of their peaches.”
According to Sarkhosh, peaches require lots of labor because the trees need to be pruned twice per year (once in the summer and once in the winter) and fruit must be thinned. Maintaining 1 acre of peach trees can cost about $1,000–$2,000 in labor alone. However, if properly managed, growers will see a greater return for putting in the extra work.
Sarkhosh believes that there are approximately 2,000 acres of peaches being produced in Florida at this time. The potential for peach growers to increase their acreage over the next few years is promising.
Quite a few citrus growers have already started planting peaches. Growers can have a successful peach yield and make a good profit off the fruit if they have the right production system. Sarkhosh said this includes frost protection, pruning at the right time and not forgetting the fruit thinning.
“The peach industry could be an economically viable industry in Florida and I would like to ask those who are involved in the industry to keep in touch with the university,” said Sarkhosh. “Send us your problems so that we can develop a research and Extension program based off the grower need to improve the industry here in Florida.”
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