Import melon markets were looking up in January for U.S. importers.

After a somewhat rocky start to its import melon deals, by January it was smooth sailing for Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Ayco Farms Inc., said Lou Kertesz, melon category manager.

“We had some ups and down, some more down than up, but for the most part, it’s good now,” Kertesz said Jan. 28.

Very strong late-season West Coast markets slowed movement and made it hard for Guatemala and Honduras to get off to good starts, Kertesz said.

Then, big supplies of cantaloupes kept markets for Central American product sluggish until about Christmas, Kertesz said. Honeydew markets fared better on the front end of the offshore deals.

Markets for cantaloupes, honeydews and other melons were strong in late January due to lower volumes than last year at the same time, said Alan Guttmann, president of Plantation, Fla.-based Fresh Quest Inc.

On Jan. 28, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $15.95-16.95 for 1/2-cartons of cantaloupes 9-12s from Guatemala and Honduras, up from $8.95-9.95 last year at the same time.

Two-thirds cartons of honeydews 5-6s from Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica were $13.95-14.95, up from $8.95-10.95 last year at the same time.

In addition to the lower volumes caused by weather issues in Central America, a higher percentage of fruit has been committed to contracts, driving up f.o.b.s, Guttmann said.

Volumes should increase beginning in February, but will still likely be below last year’s levels, Guttmann said.

Fresh Quest has added a new specialty melon, Honeymoons, to its roster of cantaloupes, honeydews, yellow honeydews, large seedless watermelons and mini-watermelons from Central America this season, he said.

Kertesz expected cantaloupe and honeydew markets to stay in the mid-teens for the next few weeks. Demand for Central American melons has been aided by a shortage of some fruits from Chile due to freeze damage, he said.

With a shortage of large watermelons in late January, demand for mini-watermelons was up, Kertesz said.

While yields have been lower out of Central America, quality and sizing have been very good this season, Guttmann said.

Dulcinea looks ahead

Since its acquisition by Fresno, Calif.-based Pacific Trellis Fruit LLC Jan. 1, Ladera Ranch, Calif.-based Dulcinea Farms LLC is focused on its spring and summer melon deals, said Monique McLaws, Dulcinea’s marketing director.

Winter production was off through late January, but the company expected to ramp up to more seasonally normal volumes in the coming weeks. Dulcinea expected strong volumes out of Northern Mexico in early spring.

The company is expecting its biggest melon volumes ever this year, McLaws said. Dulcinea will ship PureHeart mini-watermelons, Tuscan cantaloupes, Ruby Bliss large seedless watermelons and other melons this year.

The company also expects strong demand for new watermelon varieties, she said. Dulcinea expects to begin domestic production in Yuma, Ariz., and Newberry, Fla., in mid-May.