(Jan. 24) A convergence of forces has reduced supplies of Mexican watermelons and pushed prices up, and markets should stay strong at least into March, importers predict.

Quantities of winter melons from Jalisco and other growing regions are about half of what they are in a typical year, said Curtis DeBerry, owner of Progreso Produce Ltd., Hidalgo, Texas.

DeBerry said there’s plenty of blame to go around for the low volumes.

“It’s been a little bit of everything – there are some disease issues, some weather issues, and last year wasn’t a good year and I think it affected acreage,” he said.

Supplies should stay light through February, DeBerry said, and markets should stay strong as a result.

“We have very strong markets right now, and they should stay strong for the next six weeks,” DeBerry said Jan. 23, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of 34 cents per pound of red flesh seedless type 4s and 32 cents for type 5s, about the same as last year at the same time.

More watermelons should come up from Mexico in February, said Andy Lozano, owner of Sandia Depot, Edinburg, Texas – but not much more. As a result, prices will drop only into the high 20s or low 30s in February, he predicts.

By March, they should be in the mid-20s, said Lozano, which is probably where they’ll stay into April, given that Texas, which enters the deal in early spring, was hit with the same weather as Mexico.