(May 31) The Fourth of July is always a big holiday for produce promotions. Unlike Memorial Day, the weather is usually de-pendable and picnics or barbecues are on almost everybody’s calendar.

This year, there should be plenty of the major produce items, like corn, watermelon, grapes and berries, growers said. Doug Elders, produce merchandiser for the 25-store D&W Food Centers Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich., said sales for the holiday are a constant, with watermelons, stone fruit and corn carrying the day.

Elders said this year should be no different. “From what I’ve heard, everything looks pretty decent,” he said, then jokingly added, “But we still have four weeks to screw it all up.”

Art Duran, salesman for Tavilla Sales Co., Los Angeles, said another important aspect of this year’s holiday was that it falls on a Thursday, making it a four-day weekend for many Americans.

“That will help with a lot of promotions,” Duran said. “You could see good movement on a lot of items.”

Elders said that while a four-day holiday could mean a huge Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, he wasn’t sure if the week-end would be as successful.

“Our stores in resort towns along Lake Michigan will be busy over the weekend, but the stores in the city might be pretty empty because everyone has left for the weekend,” Elders said.

Still, Elders expects a much better Independence Day than Memorial Day.

“The weather just didn’t cooperate,” Elders said.

“It was cold and wet all week. But unless we get some rain, July Fourth is always nice here.”

WATERMELONS

Greg Leger, partner in Leger and Son Inc., Cordele, Ga., said May 28 that dry weather in south Georgia could affect water-melon yields, but he wasn’t yet certain.

He said the company would start picking May 31 and would continue until July 10. Despite the dry weather, he said he ex-pected good quality and ample supplies for the holiday.

Leger added that total acreage in that part of Georgia was probably at or above normal, noting that while some had dropped out of the watermelon deal, others had stepped in to take their place.

Jerry Pepelis of Jerry Pepelis Packing Co., Modesto, Calif., said after a slow start because of cold weather, the watermelon deal in California was coming along well.

Pepelis, who handles mostly seedless watermelons, said his company would start picking around June 15, maybe earlier de-pending on the weather, with heavy volume by June 25. The deal would start in Bakersfield, Calif., a few days earlier, he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported in late May prices of 12-14 cents per pound for red-flesh seeded watermelons, 14-16 cents per pound for seedless.

SWEET CORN

Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Vegetable Growers Association, La Grange, said sweet corn from the Bain-bridge and Valdosta area was about a week to 10 days early, making availability for July Fourth questionable. Growers started picking on May 20, he said. Georgia sweet corn is usually available into October.

Hall said he did expect some corn to be available, but pricing and availability would depend on when the Florida deal fin-ished up. Hall reported low prices for Georgia sweet corn in late May.

The USDA reported the following f.o.b.s on May 28 for wirebound crates, 4-dozen size from south Georgia: yellow, $4-5, white and bicolor $5.

Duran of Tavilla Sales Co. said it had been an unusual year for sweet corn in California.

He said acreage was lighter as growers have gotten out of the deal. But poor retail sales for the Memorial Day holiday had left more corn than usual.

Still, he said he didn’t think f.o.b.s would be as high as in the past for the July Fourth holiday. In the past, wirebound crates, 4-dozen size, had gone for as much as $10, he said.

Duran said growers in the El Centro, Calif., region would be picking corn through June 4, with the Coachella deal taking over until late June. Then, the deal would move north, he said.

One trend Duran has noticed is the move toward white corn in California. He said he thought the rising Hispanic population was lifting sales of white corn to three or four times that of yellow corn.

GRAPES

Bobby Bianco, co-owner of Anthony Vineyards, Coachella, Calif., said the company began packing grapes in the Coachella Valley on May 9 and would continue to do so up until the holiday.

Bianco reported good quality and quantity for all varieties and solid markets for all but perlettes, which had been a little slow because of some overlap with Mexico.

He said that acreage was down, but only 3% to 4%, mostly in the thompson variety.

He added that the July Fourth holiday is usually good for the company, and hoped that the introduction of a significant vol-ume of princesses would be attractive to buyers.

Grapes are always a big seller during the holiday, he said.

“When the chains promote them, they fly off the shelves,” Bianco said.

On May 29, the USDA reported f.o.b.s of mostly $10.85 for 18-pound cartons of bags/lugs of U.S. One perlettes from Mexico through Nogales, Ariz. Last year at this time they sold for $16.85-17.85. The same 18-pound cartons of Mexican flame seedless were selling for mostly $12.85, while last year they sold for $32.85-36.85.

The 18-pound cartons of perlettes from Coachella Valley, were mostly $12.85-13.85, while flame seedless were mostly $14.85. Last year they $16.85-17.85 and $32.85-36.85, respectively.

BERRIES

Mike Klackle, vice president of sales for Global Berry Farms LLC, Naples, Fla., said the company would be promoting blue-berries for the holiday.

Global Berry markets blueberries from Georgia, North Carolina and New Jersey, and all three regions were on schedule with good volume through June.

“This year ought to be a good opportunity to promote blueberries,” he said. “The timing is good.”

Stephanie Hilton, marketing director for the California Strawberry Commission, Watsonville, said there would be strong vol-umes this summer.

The commission is running a consumer recipe release with a July Fourth theme to newspapers across the country, she said.

Hilton said the main volume during the holiday period comes from the Watsonville-Salinas area, and that the region was looking good in terms of quality and volume.