Canning-peach growers saw something last week that might help whip the industry back into shape.
It was a machine that spins short rubber cords that knock some of the blossoms off peach trees. This thins the crop at a lower cost than the hand-thinning that usually is done after the fruit starts developing.
For an industry struggling with lax demand and cheap imported peaches, cutting costs and better managing production are welcome benefits
"At this point, we would love to get this out in growers' hands, because we really feel this machine works," said Roger Duncan, director of the University of California Cooperative Extension in Stanislaus County.
He demonstrated the machine Friday at an orchard owned by Chuck Voss along Hatch Road just east of Ceres.
Stabilizing the peach industry would preserve a few thousand jobs at canneries, including Del Monte Foods and Seneca Foods in Modesto. Most of them are seasonal, but they matter in a region with an unemployment rate of more than 18 percent.
The industry has declined in part because of a perception that canned peaches are not as healthy as fresh, though growers and canners cite studies to the contrary. Imports from China and other low-cost producers also have hurt.
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