(Nov. 27) The continuing absence of Mexican cantaloupe in the market was giving momentum to the offshore deal in South Florida, and that may be particularly true after the Thanksgiving holiday. However, distributors said the limited short-term opportunity was offset by concerns that consumer and retail confidence could be shaken for all imported melons because of the ban on Mexican cantaloupes.

F.o.b.s for cantaloupes and honeydew sagged slightly in pre-holiday trading but were expected to trend higher in early to mid December — particularly if Mexican cantaloupes are still shut out of the market place by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Oct. 28 import alert. Individual Mexican firms can be removed from the import ban after they satisfy food safety concerns of FDA authorities, but it was uncertain how long that review process might take.

Jim Cunningham, a Federal State-Market News Service reporter in Miami, Fla., noted melons were coming from Guatemala and the Dominican Republic in late November. Importers of Honduras cantaloupe indicated they would start with some volume in early December.

So far this season, Cunningham said melon shipments from Central America have been running well ahead of last year. Through Nov. 21, about 445 (40,000-pound) containers of cantaloupe had been received in Florida, compared with 254 through the same date last year. Honeydew imports have totaled 89 containers, compared with 58 containers at the same time last year.

Demand is strong, especially on the larger fruit. The USDA reported that south Florida f.o.b. pricing on Guatemalan melons was $9-10 per carton on 9s and $7-8 per carton on 12s on Nov. 25. Quality was improving, and brix levels were 9 to 10, he said.

Meanwhile, Cunningham said prices for Dominican Republic melons were about $2 per carton cheaper than Guatemalan fruit.

Brad Ferguson, president and chief executive officer of Magellan Farms LLC, Pompano Beach, Fla., said market conditions for imported melons would be $9-10 per carton for cantaloupes the week of Dec. 2 and perhaps $10-11 per carton the week of Dec. 9.

Alan Guzi, sales manager for Soltech Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla., said the troubles of Mexican cantaloupe producers face do not necessarily give importers of Central American melons an advantage.

“I wish this would all get resolved as quickly as possible. The perception of us (having) offshore foreign grown melons is not something we are taking lightly, either,” he said.

Like many importing companies, Guzi said Soltech uses third-party auditors to review the food safety of its farms, and the results of those audits are available for review by retailers, he said.