Watermelon market heats upWatermelon deals in Florida and Texas are off to late starts, and with Mexico ending early, markets should continue to strengthen.

Nogales, Ariz.-based Al Harrison Co.’s Sonora, Mexico, deal was running two to three weeks early this spring, and by early May, volumes were declining, said Brent Harrison, president.

“The market is climbing, and demand is high,” Harrison said May 7. “The rest of May should be short in supply, and demand will only get stronger.”

Edinburg, Texas-based Bagley Produce Co.’s Texas watermelon deal was running about two weeks behind schedule in early May, said Jeff Fawcett, sales manager.

“We’ve had a lot of cool weather,” Fawcett said May 5.

Bagley expects to wind down its Mexican watermelon program by mid-May.

Once the Texas deal begins, Fawcett doesn’t expect the late start to present too many marketing problems, though he said shippers will have a tough time capitalizing on Memorial Day pull.

Bagley doesn’t expect to ship in volume out of Texas until about May 20.

In addition to the late start, yields could be down due to high winds and other factors, Fawcett said. And if hot weather comes on quickly, it could stress melons that have already been on plants for longer than usual.

“I don’t think it will be a huge crop,” Fawcett said.

That could translate into above-average prices when Texas begins its season, he said.

“It’s lining up for a repeat of May of last year, when markets were strong.”

On May 6, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of 25 cents per pound fro 24-inch bins of red seedless 36s from Florida, up from 22 cents per pound last year at the same time.

In Florida, meanwhile, Pura Vida Farms LLC, Scottsdale, Ariz., was kicking off its watermelon deal from the Immokalee growing region in early May, said Michael Martori, vice president of sales.

“It’s a relatively late start, but the quality looks good,” Martori said May 5. “Next week we’ll have significant volumes.”

That sets up well for meeting demand for Memorial’s Day promotions for Pura Vida, he said.

Volumes of Mexican watermelons were declining for Pura Vida the week of May 5. The quality of late-season Mexican quality was just fair, Martori said.

Disease pressure in Florida could affect yields for some shippers, but quality and fruit size looked good as of May 5, Martori said.

Pura Vida expects to begin shipping watermelons from Yuma, Ariz., in mid-May. The company expects good quality and yields in the region, Martori said.