(May 30) Now that Memorial Day is over, produce shippers have their sights set on July Fourth, the next big summer promotion.

Sweet corn and watermelon rank high on consumer shopping lists for the holiday, shippers say. So do strawberries and table grapes.

The July Fourth holiday, like Memorial Day, is one of the peak shipping times for sweet corn. The heaviest production that time of year will come from the Bainbridge, Ga., area.

J.D. Poole, vice president of Pioneer Growers Co-op, Bell Glade, Fla., which plans to start shipping from Bainbridge for July Fourth around June 24, expects plenty of volume for the industry.

Acreage in Georgia is similar to what it was at the same time last year, and quality looks to be excellent, said Brent Bergmann, salesman for Hugh H. Branch Inc., Pahokee, Fla.

By mid-June, most prices should be set for promotions, he said.

Like Poole, Bergmann reported a trend for more bicolor sweet corn this season. Markets for bicolor, whose popularity used to be more limited to Detroit, Boston and Canada, have grown substantially over the past five years, he said.

In 1990, bicolor comprised just 3% of the sweet corn produced in Georgia. In 2002, bicolor’s share had risen to 35% to 40%, he said.

Mike Aiton, senior vice president of Bakersfield, Calif.-based Sun World International Inc., expects plenty of availability for seedless watermelons for July Fourth promotions. Sun World will be drawing volumes from Arizona, Georgia and two locations in South Carolina.

For the most part, production in Arizona and California will set Western prices, Texas the Midwest and Georgia and South Carolina the East Coast, he said.

Besides production, weather in major consumer markets also will influence pricing, said Greg Leger, president of Leger & Son Inc., Cordele, Ga. It’s always better if it’s picnic weather, he said.

Brent Harrison, salesman for Al Harrison Co. Distributors, Nogales, Ariz., expects that Arizona production could fetch f.o.b.s of 16-18 cents per pound on seedless watermelon, and 10-12 cents on seeded.

That’s a little above last year’s prices, he said, citing a late crop in Bakersfield this season.

In Georgia, Leger said the Cordele area had had wet, cool conditions. If that continues, the melons could develop disease, which would affect yields.

“I don’t think we’re going to have a situation of oversupply, of overproduction this year,” Leger said. “It’s just where it needs to be.”

Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc., Coral Gables, Fla., will have limited promotions for Georgia watermelons, said John Loughridge, vice president of marketing. The company also will offer promotable volumes of honeydews and cantaloupes from Arizona and athena melons from Georgia, he said.

Many shippers say supplies of red grapes will be tight before the holiday.

Jerry Wagner, sales manager for Farmers Best International LLC, Nogales, Ariz., said Mexican reds will be finished way before shipping for the July Fourth pull beginning the week of June 23. Still, plenty of sugraones should be available from Caborca, Mexico, for the holiday, he said.

Loughridge said that although Del Monte would have grapes available from vineyards in Arizona, Mexico and the Coachella Valley, it wouldn’t promote them.

John Burton, sales manager of Peter Rabbit Farms, Coachella, said his company should have thompson seedless available for promotions but not any flames.

Aiton said Sun World wouldn’t have any grapes the last week of June or the first week of July.

“There’s a pretty good gap coming our way,” he said. Mexico will be the driving factor on the market until production begins in the San Joaquin Valley, he said.

The holiday pull for July Fourth will hit in the middle of peak strawberry production in Northern California, said Craig Moriyama, vice president of strawberry sales for Global Berry Farms LLC, Naples, Fla.

“So it’s perfect for the Fourth of July, but you have other items in that time period, too,” said Moriyama, who is based in Watsonville, Calif. He cited melons, grapes and stone fruit, among others.

Pricing for strawberries is higher in the spring and winter, when they’re a more unique item, he said.

The holiday pull starts around June 19 and goes until the holiday, he said.