(June 19) Delayed production in Indiana could bolster markets for watermelons from the Missouri bootheel, shippers say.

Also, seedless production should increase for both regions this season, they say.

Paul Teague, president of Delta Fresh Inc., Jonesboro, Ark., expects his watermelon production from Senath, Mo. —part of Missouri’s bootheel wedged between Arkansas and Tennessee — to begin in a light way the last week of June.

“No great big volume, but I will have some,” he said. Heavier volumes should come off right around July Fourth.

Bud Henderson, president of Semo Produce Inc., Kennett, Mo., said lighter volumes often are shipped around June 26 or 27 but that buyers have to be selective. Some fruit isn’t quite ripe, he said.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported the following July 9 cwt. f.o.b.s from southeast Missouri and northeast Arkansas: red-flesh seeded $5, red-flesh seedless $6.

Meanwhile, substantial volumes from Indiana, Missouri’s biggest competitor, may not be available until late July or early August, said Anita Field, general manager of Wabash Valley Growers Inc., Vincennes, Ind. Watermelon supplies could be short in early July, she said.

Scott Monroe, director of research and development for Melon Acres Inc., Oaktown, Ind., said it would easily be the third week of July before even initial volumes could be harvested, which would put the crop about a week to 10 days behind schedule.

The company may not get into heavy volumes until the first week of August, he said.

Indiana’s delayed start, coupled with a lean transition from Georgia, could mean strong markets for Missouri, Teague said.

Missouri’s acreage, which traditionally hovers around 5,500 acres, could drop to around 5,000 this year, Teague said. The USDA reported 2001 harvested acreage in Missouri at 5,000, compared to 5,800 in 2000 and 5,300 the year before.

Henderson said Semo Produce ships heavy volumes for the Labor Day holiday but that demand for watermelons traditionally slacks off afterward. The holiday generally marks the end of the bootheel deal, he said.

Field said Wabash Valley Growers Inc. generally wraps up its deal in late August, but delayed plantings could extend its market window further.

Missouri has more seedless acreage in the bootheel than it has ever had, Teague said. Still, in some cases, it’s difficult convincing growers that they can justify the higher cost of planting seedless over seeded, especially after low markets last year in which f.o.b.s for both were about the same, he said.

In Indiana, Field said she’s had more seedless than seeded for several years.

“I think the trend is toward more seedless everywhere,” she said.