Cantaloupe growers expect very strong July demand due to late starts in California and other growing regions.

“There will be erratic supplies the first 30 days” of the deal, said Jim Malanca, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Westside Produce Co., Firebaugh, Calif. “There will be ups and downs, but the ups won’t be as high, and the downs will be lower.”

Westside Produce expects to kick off its Westside deal July 7-9, several days later than normal, Malanca said.

Yuma, Ariz.-based Sandstone Marketing Inc. is extending its Yuma deal because of the lateness of the California crop, said Milas Russell Jr., the company's president.

The company expects to ship out of Yuma until about July 20, 10 days later than usual, Russell said. Sandstone should be shipping from the Huron, Calif., region by Aug. 1.

Midwest Marketing Co. Inc., Vincennes, Ind., expected to wrap up its Georgia cantaloupe deal July 2-3, said Kelly Tyner, salesman.

Thanks to wet weather during planting season, Midwest’s Indiana deal won’t begin until July 15-18, seven to 10 days later than normal, Tyner said.

“We’re a little worried about the gap,” he said. “We just have to keep the interest up.”

Fortunately, Tyner said, the company had already inked ads for late July, indicating retailers are confident demand will be there.

Russell reported very strong demand in late June.

“The holiday demand has really pushed prices up the last two weeks,” he said June 29. “It’s hard to find cantaloupes that aren’t committed.”

Volumes would likely stay light and markets strong until late July, Russell said.

On June 28, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $10.45 for one-half cartons of cantaloupe 9s from Arizona and California, up from $4.50-5 last year at the same time.

In addition to lower volumes, fruit could be on the small side at the beginning of the deal, Malanca said.

That could pose problems for retailers, many of whom don’t sell anything but the standard size 9 cantaloupes, he said.

The combination of volume and size limitations could cause some retailers to pull ads.

“Prices are high now, and retailers are saying, ‘Will it be better?’” Malanca said. “ I can’t really tell them that. And higher freight costs don’t help anybody.”

Quality on early-season Westside cantaloupes should be good, Malanca said.