“Right now, there are virtually no offshore watermelons nor domestic watermelons yet. Initially they were anticipating supplies from South Florida by the 15th of this month. And then the cool weather started there and that’s been delayed,” says Greg Hamil of W.G. Hamil LLC in Thomasville, Ga. “The reports I’m getting is that there’ll probably be supplies the first of April.”
Jamaica melon photo courtesy HM Clause
Imperial Valley and Arizona
That said, the supplies of honeydew and cantaloupe are similar to last year in terms of volume and quality, says Jagdeep Dhillon with Davis, Ca.-based HM Clause. “Currently there is no supply coming out of the USA, but we can expect to be seeing some materialize toward the end of April and into May with the Imperial Valley/Arizona beginning to harvest,” says Dhillon, who adds that HMC is anticipating a good response to a couple of newer products: Jamaica, a netted Italian-type melon with a sutured exterior, and Tonga, with the flavor and sweetness of a traditional western shipper.
Tonga melon photo courtesy HM Clause
The chilly impact
While the cold temperatures are delaying that crop’s arrival, they could also cause some quality problems such as Hollow Heart (when a watermelon’s insides reveal cracks and hollow pockets). “The last couple of years there’ve been watermelons by Memorial Day in North Florida but I don’t think there’s any way there’ll be fruit that early this year,” says Hamil.
Watermelon photo courtesy W.G. Hamil LLC
Instead, consumers would be facing a glut of watermelons shortly after the first of June. “Because then North Florida could come in on top of South Georgia,” says Hamil. “The prices would be a bit of a challenge but that’s still a long way off.”
While demand is good—and tends to strengthen on all melons as the temperatures pick up—pricing is higher right now, notes Hamil. For cantaloupe and honeydew, prices this month ($13 FOB on average for exporters) have been lower than January’s pricing, which was $16 FOB on average. “It might pick up a bit between the end of the Central American campaign and the beginning of the domestic production cycle in the western United States,” says Dhillon.
Supplies to grow
Looking ahead, Hamil also isn’t sure how Mexico will factor into this year’s watermelon market. “The last several years we have had very strong pressure and extremely cheap prices coming from Mexico and I don’t know if that will be a factor again,” he says. “But I do think in the coming weeks, we’ll start seeing a little more supply out of South Florida and then prices should moderate.”
For more information:
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