(Aug. 8) California melon growers expect moderate to strong demand for steady supplies of very sweet, good-looking honeydews, cantaloupes and mixed melons.

Small sizing, however, could pose challenges for some shippers.

“We’ve had ideal weather for quality,” said Steve Smith, co-owner of Turlock Fruit Co. Inc., Turlock, Calif. “We haven’t had the extremes of last year, and fields have been harvested when we expected them to be.”

Steve Patricio, partner in Westside Produce Inc., Firebaugh, Calif., agreed.

“Sugars have been very high, and the shipability has been tremendous up to now,” he said. “And I don’t see it changing.”

The consistently good weather has meant very orderly crop movement so far, and, barring any unforeseen extreme weather, growers expect more of the same, Smith said. That should mean a continuation of demand that, while not robust, has been adequately strong.

On Aug. 7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $5.45-5.95 for one-half cartons of cantaloupes 9s from California’s San Joaquin Valley, down from $7.45-8.35 last year at the same time.

Two-thirds cartons of honeydews 4s were $4-5, comparable to last year.

Westside Produce began shipping in late June, ahead of its typical July 4 start, Patricio said. The company expects to ship into the second week of October. Aside from local deals, California should have the melon deal to itself until central Arizona growers start harvesting in early October, Patricio said.

The one downside of this year’s crop is a shortage of large cantaloupes, Patricio said.

“Sizing is a little smaller than the marketplace would like,” he said. “People are used to jumbo sizing now. The sizing this year is more normal.”

Smith agreed.

“We’re having a struggle on size,” he said. “The cantaloupe market has evolved to where there’s market for 9s and there’s a market for all the other sizes.