Cantaloupe and honeydew prices are coming down as Central American and Mexican production picks up in March and April, importers said.

Cantaloupe and honeydew prices will drop as the second round of Central American production ramps up in March, said Lou Kertesz, vice president of sales for Fresh Quest Inc., Plantation, Fla.

“We’ll see some leveling out, and normal pricing within the next week,” Kertesz said March 6.

On March 6, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $9.95 for one-half cartons of cantaloupes 9s from Central America, down from $10-11.95 last year at the same time.

Two-third cartons of honeydews 6s from Mexico were $10.35-12.35, down from $12.35-14.45 last year.

Fresh Quest’s second cycle of Guatemalan melons began the week of Feb. 27, and Honduras followed the week of March 5, Kertesz said.

In March, MAS Melons & Grapes LLC, Nogales, Ariz., was importing honeydews from Colima and Nayarit in central Mexico, said Miguel Suarez, manager.

About 15% of the Central Mexican crop was lost to cold weather, Suarez said, and rains in Central America have further limited volumes. As a result, MAS saw unprecedented demand early in the year.

“We’ve sold honeydews for prices we’ve never sold for before,” Suarez said March 6.

By the week of March 5, prices had fallen by 40% to 50%, but were still “pretty good,” Suarez said. MAS expects to ship from Central Mexico through May, when the deal moves north to the Caborca region of Sonora.

MAS will begin shipping watermelons from Sonora about April 15, Suarez said. Growing weather in northern Mexico had been good through March 6, he said.

Crown Jewels Produce Co., Fresno, Calif., expects its Northern Mexico honeydew and cantaloupe deals to kick off at the end of April, right on time, said Atomic Torosian, partner.

“They’ve had warm, perfect growing weather,” Torosian said.

Mini-watermelons should follow in mid-May, also on schedule, he said. Honeydew and mini-watermelon volumes should be similar to last year, but cantaloupe shipments will likely be down slightly, he said.  

As volumes increase, Fresh Quest and other companies will have a truer gauge of lingering effects from the cantaloupe listeria outbreak of 2011.

The strength of January and February cantaloupe markets could have been due more to limited volumes than to a post-outbreak boost in demand, Kertesz said.

“There’s an urgency to have increased sales by promoting,” he said.

In early March, Kertesz reported very good quality out of Central America. Larger-than-usual fruit from Guatemala was offset by smaller fruit from Honduras.

“There’s a good balance of sizes,” he said.

Fresh Quest’s Central American melons deals should finish by the end of April, Kertesz said.