(July 2, 5:40 p.m.) Delays and shortages should continue to limit cantaloupe availability, possibly through July, grower-shippers said.

Turlock Fruit Co. Inc., Turlock, Calif., planned to begin shipping cantaloupes from the Huron, Calif., area by July 4, about three days later than normal, said Steve Smith, co-owner.

The company harvests in Turlock until about the third week in July, when the deal shifts to the Firebaugh area, Smith said. Turlock sources cantaloupes from there through about mid-October.

Cold, windy weather that affected pollination and plants’ first bloom, and later scorching heat that hurt vines and left fruit sunburned, reduced the first half of the Bakersfield-Calif., area crop by 30-40%, said Danny Andrews, owner of Dan Andrews Farms, Bakersfield.

And that, he said, had a direct effect on f.o.b.s.

“Demand is excellent,” Andrews said June 30.

On July 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $7.95-10.95 for one-half cartons of cantaloupes 9-15s from California and Arizona, up from $4.50-5 last year at the same time.

Midwest Marketing Co. Inc., Vincennes, Ind., will likely wrap up its Georgia harvest the first week of July and not begin shipping from Indiana until July 15-18, due to sluggish growing conditions in the Hoosier State this spring, said Kelly Tyner, salesman.

Midwest Marketing’s Indiana acreage was not, however, damaged by torrential rains in Indiana in mid-June, Tyner said.

That 10-day gap between harvests is highly unusual, Tyner said. Typically, Georgia segues seamlessly into Indiana, with maybe a few days of overlap.

As a result, already-high f.o.b.s should stay high heading into the Indiana harvest, he said.

“We’re anticipating pretty good demand once we get started,” Tyner said.

A week of high temperatures in Arizona “pretty much wiped out” late shipments from there, putting additional upward pressure on markets, Andrews said.

Late-season shipments from Bakersfield were expected to be more normal, Andrews said, with a corresponding decline in prices as the deal winds down. Andrews Farms’ shipments from the area were expected to conclude about July 16, he said.

With light volumes out of California expected in July, Smith said he expects continued high f.o.b.s., although he declined to quote a possible range.

“Due to the early conclusion to the desert deal, markets are very positive, and I hope and expect them to remain good through July,” he said.

Once volume shipments out of Firebaugh begin, probably in early August, prices should come down, Smith said.

Quality looked good on early fruit, though sizing would probably be off at the beginning of Turlock Fruit’s California deal, Smith said. Later in the deal, however, there should be plenty of the popular size-9 fruit available, he said.

Quality on early-season fruit out of Bakersfield was just fair, Andrews said, but late-season cantaloupes are expected to be of excellent quality, though there would be a premium on 9s.

Tyner reported good quality but a possibly smaller size profile on late-season Georgia melons. He forecast normal quality and sizing on early shipments out of Indiana.

Turlock Fruit also will ship organic cantaloupes, an Italian-variety heirloom cantaloupe and a new French-variety specialty cantaloupe this season, Smith said.