Importers of winter watermelons, cantaloupes and honeydews expect strong demand in coming weeks, though some say a break in the arctic U.S. weather would benefit sales.

Lower production has helped buoy Central American honeydew and cantaloupe markets in the U.S. this winter, said Michael Warren, president of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Central American Produce.

“Volumes are a bit lighter industrywide, which I think has helped everybody,” Warren said. “Demand is good and it seems the market is favorable.”

Central American melon volumes will likely be down 5% to 10%, Warren said.

That strong demand should continue throughout the deal, Warren said. Even the frosty winter in much of the U.S. in the early weeks of 2011 didn’t deter buyers of Central American honeydews and cantaloupes, he said.

“We’ve experienced some cool weather recently, and they’re still moving,” he said. “The demand is still there.”

Central American melons also are benefiting from the unseasonably cold, wet winters in Florida and California, which have cut into production of strawberries and other commodities, Warren said.

“Whenever you see volumes of another promotable product go down, they shift to melons,” he said.

Demand for Mexican watermelons and honeydews had been good in the early weeks of winter, said Raul Paez, president and general manager of Nogales, Ariz.-based Sandia Distributors.

Then, with the New Year, came snow, cold, followed by more snow and more cold.

“Demand is on the soft side now,” Paez said Jan. 21. “There’s been really bad weather on the East Coast, and it’s really taken a toll.”

Thanks to the weather, it’s been hard to get trucks to the coast, especially from Texas, Paez said.

Los Angeles-based Giumarra Cos. should pick up melon production in the second part of the Mexican growing season this spring, said Nick Rendon, division manager in the company’s Nogales office.

But in mid-January, Rendon reported brisk movement in the early part of winter.

“Cantaloupe has experienced high demand through November and December,” he said.