Domestic melons will be scarce in late April and early May.
On both sides of the U.S., watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew crops are running behind, by a week or two, growers agree.
Randy Smith, vice president and salesman for Midwest Marketing Co. Inc., Vincennes, Ind., said melons from south Florida usually start moving around April 20. This year, it will be sometime in May, Smith said.
“The south Florida and mid-Florida deals may catch up to each other,” Smith said. “Once we’re past mid-Florida, hopefully things will get back on a normal situation.”
Gordon Caruthers, owner of Etheridge Produce LLC, Raleigh, N.C., said his company replanted some watermelon fields in Florida three times.
“Normally we start April 10, but this year is going to be the second or third of May,” Caruthers said.
Caruthers said he’s worried about the different Florida regions being too close together around Memorial Day (May31), and what that could do to the watermelon market.
“This past season has presented us with numerous challenges across the whole state of Florida with everything from rain, cold, winds, and just when you thought you were past the worst of it, the cycle would start over again,” said Allan Girvin, business development manager for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. “We are expecting Mother Nature to be more cooperative as we move forward, but her plans could be different than ours.”
Girvin said the expected 10-day delay in harvesting in Florida could cause an overlap between Florida and Georgia, but that it was too early to say for sure.
“Weather conditions related to El Nino have caused varying production curves this season and late rain in California and Arizona is expected to affect availability,” said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing for Coral Gables, Fla.-based Fresh Del Monte.
Christou said the company is expecting improved demand, but because of current weather conditions affecting production, lower supplies overall.
Manteca, Calif.-based George Perry & Sons Inc. expects to start harvesting in Bakersfield, Calif., by mid-June, and expects to be up to Manteca, where most of its melons are grown, by July 1. Until then the company expects to have Mexican melons until June, then to harvest in Yuma, Ariz., and the Coachella and El Centro valleys in May, said Art Perry, co-owner.
“I think we can say everything’s a little later than it was a year ago,” Perry said in early April. “The market is softening, and I’m noticing quality’s really improving at this point. I believe we’re going to have some excellent fruit to work with.”
Watermelon f.o.b.s have been dropping since late March. At the beginning of March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported f.o.b. prices up to 46 cents per pound for seedless watermelons from Mexico, size 4-5. Miniature melons from Central America were $14.50-15.50 per carton of 5-8s, and $12-13 for 9s.
By the first week of April, watermelons crossing at Nogales, Ariz., were 34-36 cents per pound for seedless 4-5s, and cartons of mini seedless watermelons were $11-13, depending on size.
According to the USDA, volumes of Florida watermelons should increase enough to report prices the week of April 26.
Mid-April last year, Mexican seedless watermelons crossing the border at Nogales were 20 cents per pound for 45-55 count, and 18-20 cents per pound for 60-count. Flori-da and Texas were active by late April and mid-May, respectively.