(April 26) Watermelon grower-shippers in south Florida and Texas are off to a good start, and despite last year’s hurricanes and this year’s Valentine’s Day freeze, several Southeast melon shippers said they were expecting a normal season.

South Texas crops looked good as of April 26, said Jimmy Henderson, salesman for produce distributor Warren Produce Co. LLC, McAllen, Texas.

“The Texas fruit I’ve seen is beautiful,” Henderson said.

He said he is concerned recent windy spells near Mission, Texas, might have stunted plant growth, but there was no evidence of a problem. Henderson said he expects Texas production to be about the same as last year’s, with Warren shipping about 500 truckloads of melons from late April to July 4.

Prices were good and likely to remain stable, Henderson said.

On April 25, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported south Texas watermelon quality was variable and prices from trade sources were 20 cents a pound for red flesh seedless type 45s. The same type of watermelons were selling for 21-22 cents a pound from Florida, where quality was generally good.

Arnold Mack, owner of Mack Farms Inc., Lake Wales, Fla., said he expects an average season.

Mack Farms started cutting melons in Immokalee, Fla., on April 17, which was later than normal because of February’s cold snap.

Mack said he expected his company to harvest melons in Lake Wales on May 1 and in northern Florida and Georgia in early June. The company has 1,150 acres of watermelons in the two states.

Greg Leger, president and partner in Leger & Son Inc., Cordele, Ga., said harvesting started slowly in Immokalee, Fla., in mid-April, but the quality and supply were good by late April. He said supply and demand seemed to be balanced, and he expected to be able to sell all of the 250 loads he planned to ship from Florida this season.

Prices for seedless melons were averaging 22 cents a pound in mid- to late April, Leger said.

He said he expected to pick watermelons in Georgia about June 5-10, which is typical. His company’s supply should be about 500 to 600 loads, about the same as last year’s.

North Carolina growers expect to start harvesting about June 25, said Billy Guthrie, president of the Bogue Sound Watermelon Growers Association Inc., Newport.

“I’m going out on a limb, but I still think I’ll be right if nature cooperates,” Guthrie said. “That’s about three weeks earlier than last year.”

He said the weather has been warmer than last year, with highs in the 80s and lows in the 60s for the week of April 17.

“We’re looking for a bullish season,” Guthrie said.