Grower-shippers expect strong demand for cantaloupes and other melons from Yuma, Arizona, California’s Imperial Valley and Northern Mexico.

Turlock Fruit Co. Inc., Turlock, Calif., should begin shipping honeydews from Hermosillo, Mexico, May 15-16, said Steve Smith, co-owner. Cantaloupes from the Imperial Valley should get started about the same time or slightly later.

Yuma-based Sandstone Marketing Inc. expects to begin shipping cantaloupes May 24 and honeydews and specialties June 1, said Milas Russell Jr., the company’s president.

Production for Turlock Fruit should continue in the Imperial Valley and Hermosillo until mid- to late June, when production in the San Joaquin Valley is expected to take over, Smith said.

“Things are looking good,” he said. “We don’t see anything out of the ordinary.”

Quality could be outstanding because of the lower temperatures than normal in Yuma this growing season, Russell sad.

“I expect an excellent crop,” he said. “Usually cool weather makes better quality.”

Yields could be slightly lighter than normal because of heavy winds, he said. Turlock Fruit’s acreage is similar to last year. And size profile will be smaller at the beginning of the deal than Turlock would like, with cantaloupes peaking on 12s instead of the preferred 9s.

On May 11, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $10-10.50 for two-thirds cartons of honeydews 5-6s from Mexico, up from $3-4 last year at the same time.

On May 1 one-half cartons of cantaloupes 9s from Central America were selling for $20 on the Miami terminal market, up from $11-12 last year at the same time. 

Turlock’s and Sandstone’s deals are getting underway about a week later than normal because of cool weather during the growing season, Smith and Russell said.

That delay, which has given the Central American pipeline more time to clear, has been good for demand, Smith said.

“It appears from the calls we’re getting that demand is a bit better than normal,” he said. “There’s generally more overlap.”

Russell agreed.

“I think cantaloupes and honeydews in general are in much fewer hands right now,” he said.

The downside of the late start is that shippers may not be able to take full advantage of Memorial Day promotional opportunities on the East Coast, Smith said.

This year Sandstone is adding two new varieties to its “kiss” line of specialty melons: golden kiss and sugar kiss. With their addition, Sandstone has now phased out all of its older melon varieties and discontinued its mixed melon program, Russell said.

“At that price level, consumers deserve a better-eating experience,” he said. “Specialties have a better and more consistent flavor profile.”

Turlock also is experimenting this year with two specialty melons, grown in the Imperial Valley: the Asian hami melon and an Italian-style heirloom cantaloupe. They should begin shipping about May 20, Smith said.