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Watermelons look towards a strong 2017 in North America

As we head into the summer season, watermelon supply and consumption are both expected to be strong for 2017. 

“We’re now seven weeks into the domestic season with plenty of imports still coming in from Mexico and less so from our Central American partners in Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama,” says Jason Hanselman with the Winter Springs, Fl.-based National Watermelon Promotion Board. 

This is consistent with what the board has seen throughout 2017. “Since January 1st, we’ve seen close to 30 per cent more watermelon volume compared to the same time frame over the preceding five years, so 2012 to 2016,” he says. “Much of this is owed to a tremendous winter crop out of Mexico, though both Guatemala and Honduras also saw good volumes so far in 2017.” On top of that, May crops out of Texas also had strong, early starts. “And while California is getting off to a slightly delayed start we also saw Guatemala slow down substantially over this past month. While these negatives are unfortunate for those folks, they present as a drop in the bucket compared to the marginally higher supply coming in so early.” 

Consumption climbs
This much volume is welcome news to a domestic population whose watermelon consumption has risen since 2015: in 2016, the Agricultural Marketing Service reported that the U.S. consumed 5.1 billion pounds of watermelon that year. The year before, 4.7 billion was consumed.

Meanwhile, production challenges with watermelons remain as they do with most commodities. “There can be extreme weather events that wipe out crops completely or simply too much rain, which can increase disease pressure from insects and fungi, leading to decreased yields per acre,” Hanselman says. In addition, finding labor to harvest the fields and get product to the packinghouse and subsequently onto trucks, can also prove tough to find at times.

“There can also be other challenges going in the other direction,” he says. “As seen during this past Fall and Winter, when weather conditions present as ideal across multiple regions, this can lead to a surplus situation where there is more supply than potential demand. While this is a challenge to our folks it is one that can be beneficial to consumers who continuously seek to stretch their food budget further and further.” 

Big holidays await
That said, looking ahead at the season, the industry is ramping up to Memorial Day, the commodity’s second biggest holiday following Independence Day. “Changes in the market can come suddenly, but I expect volumes to continue picking up as we head into Memorial Day,” he says. “It also signals a bit of change as East Coast crops continue their trek Northward out of Florida and up the coast with ventures also inland. While this year has seen expanded volumes so far, that is no guarantee of what the future holds.”

For more information:
Jason Hanselman
National Watermelon Promotion Board
Tel: +1 407-657-0261

Publication date: 5/26/2017
Author: Astrid van den Broek
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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