Watermelon shippers look forward to more normal production from South Texas and Mexico now that the parched West Texas deal is in the rearview mirror.

Edinburg, Texas-based Bagley Produce Co. cut its first South Texas watermelons Oct. 6, said Jeff Fawcett, salesman. The company expects to ship from South Texas until West Mexico production begins taking over the deal in mid-November.

Nogales, Ariz.-based Al Harrison Produce Co. expects to begin importing melons from Hermosillo, Mexico, the week of Oct. 10, said Brent Harrison, the company’s president.

Fawcett said he expects a typical transition from South Texas to Mexico.

What was decidedly not typical, however, was the transition from West Texas to South Texas, Fawcett said.

“It wasn’t so hot,” he said. “We had a huge gap. We had extreme heat and water issues. The last planting did not go well.”

The weather moderated for the South Texas season, and Bagley expects a more normal crop. And because of the shortages at the end of the West Texas deal, there’s pent-up demand in the marketplace, Fawcett said.

“It’s not like the 4th of July, but we’ve had extremely good sales,” he said. “The phones are ringing.”

On Oct. 5, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of 16 to 20 cents per pound for 24-inch bins of 45-count seedless watermelons from California, up from 12 to 14 cents last year at the same time.

Ironically, given that stronger demand, Bagley will be shipping fewer South Texas watermelons this year. That’s because after two straight years of heavy rains in 2009 and 2010, the company pulled in its horns a bit this year.

“We cut back to eliminate the risk factor, and now we’re going to hit a home run,” he said.

The growing season was going well in Mexico as of Oct. 7, Fawcett said.

Al Harrison Co. will ship mainly seedless melons from Mexico this season, Harrison said. Through early October, Mother Nature had been kind to growers, forecasting a strong start to the season.

“Quality looks good, due to good growing conditions,” Harrison said.

Al Harrison Co. will sticker its Mexican watermelons this season for easy traceability, he said.