“The first watermelon crops in South Florida are always tricky. It’s a tough place to grow,” says Jose Dalmau of Fresh-Pro, Inc. in Altamonte Springs, Fl. “The supply this time of year is always hit and miss. Weather, disease pressure, land and many other variables play a huge part in the supply. I’ve seen growers make a great crop and others just a few miles away not make it through.”
More fruit coming
That said, supply of Florida watermelon is currently meeting demand. “Most are steadily moving into volume and not having to push too hard to keep the sheds empty,” says Dalmau. “More fruit will be coming online this week as most everyone that planted will finally be going.” He also adds that the fields look a bit cleaner this year which should result in a bit more supply.
For now, Immokalee and the surrounding areas are where Florida watermelon are hailing from, though fields will open up further north over the next few days. At the same time, competing watermelon continues to arrive from Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. “The offshore deal is winding down but they will still have enough product available for a few more weeks to keep their direct customers covered at a sharp price,” says Dalmau. “The product out Mexico doesn’t become a threat to the Florida production until their FOB’s get down low enough to where they can provide comparable delivered prices to the East Coast. We haven’t reached that point yet this season.”
Meanwhile pricing looks stable for now. “Most shippers are steadily moving into their volume and have had enough orders to keep things moved this week. That has kept downward pressure off of the market,” says Dalmau. “We will see how that plays out over the next few days as grower/shippers continue to come into more volume.”
At the same time, watermelon growers agree that watermelon sales tend to increase as the sun and warm weather improves. “Everyone always wrestles with pricing this time of year,” he says. “If you push too hard on the price for too long, customers will shy away from promoting your product, which will lead to product coming online with no commitments. It’s a juggle, but ideally we can stay proactive and find a place that keeps the customers engaged while getting a fair market price back to the growers.”
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