(Oct. 26) Shippers of Mexican-grown watermelons reported a head start on prices, with good quality in early shipments this season.

“We expect a great year this year,” said Ricardo Sanchez, salesman with Nogales, Ariz.-based grower-shipper The Giumarra Cos. “The market has been good, and the quality has been excellent.”

The flow of product across the border at Nogales was only in its early stages in mid-October but was expected to pick up quickly, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Prices were generally higher than they were a year earlier, according to the USDA. Red flesh seedless type 4s were 30-32 cents per pound; 5s mostly 30 cents; and 6s were 26-28 cents.

MAS Melons & Grapes LLC, Nogales, was expecting the first shipments for its six-week deal out of northern Mexico no later than Oct. 27, said Bobby Peraza, salesman with the company.

Peraza said he anticipated prices to settle somewhere in the mid-20s.

“One of our guys that buys melons says he doesn’t expect the price to be more than 24 to 26,” he said.

And, that’s a good range, Peraza added.

“It’s good in January, when you have melons coming out of southern Mexico,” he said. “We were looking at an average price of 28-30 cents, which is good, because when you’re coming in from southern Mexico, there’s more freight involved. So, a 20-cent market is kind of low for them.”

Quality shouldn’t be an issue, shippers noted.

Hurricane Paul, which bore down on Baja California Oct. 23, should present few problems to watermelon growers in northern Mexico.

“It may hold us back because of the rain, and we may have to delay our field packing,” Peraza said.