(Oct. 20) WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rates are going up, and volumes are going down.

That’s the word from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the second-quarter edition of its Refrigerated Transport Quarterly publication.

According to the report, 4.1 million tons of fresh fruits and vegetables were shipped by refrigerated truck during the second quarter of 2003, compared to 4.8 million tons in the same time period of 2002.

Those shipments came from seven growing areas tracked by Market News Service reporters — Arizona, central California, Southern California, the Pacific Northwest, Florida, Texas and Mexico.

ARIZONA, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA UP

Broken down by region, Arizona saw an increase of nearly 50% in truckloads of watermelons; Southern California grapes saw a similar increase.

Watermelon shipments rose 47% from the second quarter of 2002 to capture 22% of the total shipments from Arizona. Cantaloupes were the biggest commodity, responsible for 55% of the shipments from Arizona in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, in Southern California, grape shipments rose by 46% from the year before, while strawberry shipments fell 28%. Sweet corn was the largest commodity, with 25% of truck shipments from California in the second quarter.

Lettuce continues to be the top produce shipment in central California, comprising 46% of truck shipments in the second quarter. Strawberries were second with 28% of shipments.

In Florida, watermelons accounted for 42% of the refrigerated truckloads shipped in the second quarter, while tomatoes reported the largest gain, a 22% increase from the previous year.

MEXICAN MELONS, GRAPES

For Mexican shipments, both watermelons and grapes reported large gains, up 23% and 26%, respectively, from the previous year. Watermelons were the largest commodity shipped out of Mexico in the second quarter, with 37% of the total shipments.

Watermelons were big in Texas, as well, accounting for 54% of the refrigerated truck shipments in the second quarter. Cabbage shipments out of Texas increased a whopping 134% from the second quarter of the previous year.

The Pacific Northwest saw a decline in potato shipments, down 22% from the same time period in 2002, although potatoes accounted for 62% of all refrigerated shipments in the second quarter.

For more information, see the Refrigerated Transport Quarterly online at www.ams.usda.gov/tmd2/rtq/.