The US watermelon season is in the process of retreating southwards, with South Carolina currently building up volume and complementing supply from Mexico. The Atlantic states north of South Carolina are finishing up as well as the Midwest and Texas. It also means that Hurricane Florence had very little effect on watermelon supply, as North Carolina is on the verge of completing its season.
"There are currently a few different regions in production," observed Nick Leger of Mack Farms. "Some supplies are coming from Mexico while West Texas and eastern New Mexico are almost done. We also still have some very late fruit from the eastern shore, including North Carolina, Virginia and Delaware. In North Carolina, growing areas closer to the coast had already finished by the time Florence came. Other areas received less rain and wind than expected."
Southern production 'heats up'
We will continue to see a further southward motion in the watermelon season as fall progresses, eventually ending up in the Central Florida growing regions by the end of fall. South Carolina's season goes for about a month before Georgia starts. The season began slightly earlier due to the weather, and growers did not suffer any adverse impacts from last week's hurricane.
"The further inland in South Carolina the better, and most growers were not as badly affected as first feared," Leger shared. "Quality is good right now and as the nights get cooler, the season will continue through to the end of October depending on acreage. Supplies will then transition to Georgia and North Florida."
Season disruption upsets market
Demand for watermelon is slowly decreasing as the cooler temperatures shifts demand toward other produce items. The summer sees the highest demand, but this year the market was flat because of the timing of the seasons. Essentially, an overlap occurred which created challenges for suppliers.
"2018 was a challenging year," Leger said. "The start of the Georgia season was late due to weather, then after July 4 we saw an early start for the eastern shore season which caused a huge overlap. Additionally, there was an abundance of rainfall in several areas which caused a few problems."
Leger noted that at the moment, the market is sitting in a relatively good position, considering the weaker demand. "Supplies are not in abundance now, nor is there a shortage," he said. "The market is steady with no significant highs or lows. It is only lower in regions where growers are looking to move stock."
Potatoes on show at PMA
In addition to watermelons, Mack Farms is also a potato grower. The company grows potatoes in Central Florida and will be exhibiting at PMA as part of a larger group.
"We are also a potato grower and will be represented at PMA as part of the Fresh Solutions Network," Leger shared. "Mack Farms will be sharing information about our potatoes from booth number 2933."