(Oct. 29) NOGALES, Ariz. — Importers of Mexican watermelons are finding adequate early supplies from the country’s northern growing region near Hermosillo, but they say the transition to melons in the states of Jalisco and Colima will be problematic in December.

Some growers are dropping out of the deal in those states because tropical storms throughout the planting and growing season have plagued their efforts, and importers say growers who stuck it out will have lower yields and more quality problems.

“I was just in Colima 10 days ago, and that area has been affected,” said Brent Harrison, vice president at Nogales-based Al Harrison Co. Distributors, on Oct. 28. “With the series of tropical storms they’ve had, we’ll see some type of shortage on watermelons for mid-December through mid-January.”

Florida’s fall watermelon harvest will pick up in November, but Texas’ harvest will taper off by mid-November, meaning winter supplies in the west will be lighter until late December.

Watermelons from the northern Mexico growing region of Hermosillo, about three hours south of Nogales, started arriving mid-October.

That deal will last through November. On Oct. 27, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported f.o.b.s of watermelons crossing through Nogales at 22-24 cents a pound for seedless size 4s and 20-22 cents for seedless size 5s; seeded size 3-4s were 12 cents a pound.

Andy Lozano, sales manager at Sandia Depot, Edinburg, Texas, said prices there have been higher, at 32-30 cents a pound for seedless and 18-20 cents on seeded melons. He attributed the lower prices in Nogales to the slowdown in distribution caused by California retail strikes.

Thousands of workers at Kroger Co., Albertsons Inc. and Safeway Inc. stores left their jobs Oct. 11 following a dispute over health care coverage.

“As soon as they put more product in the stores, you’ll see the Nogales market jump, price-wise,” Lozano said. “Their main market is California, and they don’t have anywhere to go.”

When demand does increase, the question will be whether Mexico will see a gap in production.

“They were still having rains as of last week, so it will affect a lot of production,” said Jesus Lopez Jr., president and sales manager of Big Chuy Distributors and Sons Inc., Nogales, on Oct. 29.

Lopez said his company will switch from Guaymas and Hermosillo in the north to southern regions by late November, but supplies won’t be significant until Dec. 20.