(Nov. 12) After a one-year hiatus of its Mexican cantaloupe shipping program, Farmers Best International LLC, Nogales, Ariz., started importing the melons again in mid-November.

The Food and Drug Administration, which banned imports of Mexican cantaloupes on Oct. 28, 2002, after salmonella outbreaks traced to the melons, approved Agroproductos San Rafael, Guaymas, to ship to the U.S.

Farmers Best sales manager Jerry Wagner said Farmers Best markets squash, watermelons and honeydews from the grower and has sold its cantaloupes in the past.

Agroproductos San Rafael started cantaloupe harvest in October, but Wagner said the U.S. program was delayed because prices in Mexico were high and the cantaloupes stayed on the domestic market there. Despite publicity over the import ban, Wagner said U.S. retailers are displaying great interest in the cantaloupes.

“We talked to our trade and they were well aware of the situation. They’ve purchased cantaloupes from us in the past and were just waiting for us to ship again,” Wagner said.

Farmers Best plans to ship between 80,000 and 100,000 cartons this season.

Only two other growers, Guadalupe de Guaymas and Santa Inez, both in the state of Sonora, have been approved to ship whole cantaloupes to the U.S. The Giumarra Cos., Nogales, is the sole U.S. marketer for those growers. Orval Kent de Linares SA, Linares, Mexico, is the only processor allowed to ship Mexican cantaloupe to the U.S.