UF/IFAS: Peaches can be profitable in three years

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Florida peach growers, some of whom are looking for an alternative to citrus as greening takes a toll on that crop, could see a small profit by their third year of operation, a UF researcher says.

Greening, a disease first found in Florida in 2005, has led to $4 billion in lost revenue and industry-related jobs since 2006 for the $9 billion-a-year citrus industry.

As some farmers turn to peaches, they want to know how long before they turn a profit and how long they can sustain that profit, said Mercy Olmstead, assistant professor in horticultural sciences at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Growers should see steady profit through years 10-12, when the tree starts to decline in the South.

“This is good news,” she said. “It is typically seven years before you get a commercial crop on citrus and probably eight before you are profitable.”

Olmstead co-wrote a paper that created four-year peach orchard budgets and growing operation plans with former UF doctoral student Kim Morgan, now an assistant professor in agriculture and applied economics at Virginia Tech.

Florida peaches go to market earlier than others around the nation, giving growers here a leg up on national competition, Olmstead said.

Growers invest about $11,600 in a peach orchard during the first two years before they see a profit, with a third-year income of about  $10,150 per acre, with $8,342 in grower costs, for a profit of about $1,800, , she said.

A 2011 Florida grower survey showed peaches grown on about 670 acres, according to the paper. Another 300 to 400 acres were added in 2012. Those acres are now producing about 4.5 million pounds per year, at an estimated value of $6 million, the paper says.

While an assistant professor at Mississippi State University, Morgan interviewed 26 of the estimated 40 Florida peach growers and then created four-year budgets and operation plans for the growers. The growers had varying amounts of experience, from just having established an orchard to five or more years’ experience, Olmstead said.

The budget plans included prices of pest sprays, tree costs, fuel, repairs and more.

Morgan presented her paper last summer at the Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society, and it is online at society’s website, http://www.fcla.edu/fshs/.

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