Supplies of watermelons continue to look tight which has boosted prices significantly.
“We’re in short supplies of watermelon out of Mexico through various growing regions,” says Dennis Peterson of Riverbend Fresh LLC in Kerman, Ca. “In the next few weeks, we should see increasing supplies from central Mexico to Northern Mexico. And then in May, it will start in southern Arizona and southern California and work our way up.”
Supplies of watermelon have been limited since early December thanks to colder temperatures in Mexico. “Every five years there’s an abnormally cold window that comes through Mexico. We had that again this year,” says Peterson. “The hurricanes there came before the watermelons were planted so it’s more or less been the cooler weather that’s taken out some of the watermelons scheduled for this slot of harvest.”
The temperatures have also made for inconsistent quality in the melons. “But that’s normal for winter and it hasn’t been the best growing conditions,” says Peterson.
He anticipates that volume won’t increase until at least mid-February.
All of this is skewing the perspective on demand for watermelon somewhat. “Demand is high on the little that is needed,” says Peterson. “There are still salad bars that need cubed watermelon and processors or on the shelf at the store. The industry still needs watermelon 365 days a year. But the level that it’s been at since December, there’s not enough supply to meet that demand. Our market is about as high as I’ve ever seen it.”
That means pricing that’s double what it was last year at this time. And with supplies increasing slowly, Peterson believes significant savings won’t happen until March. “I think the price will ease down for a month and then all of the sudden we’ll get a new growing region with good volume and the price will drop,” he says. “Anything that’s going in now is going into a normal temperature cycle and 90 days from now we’ll have a ton of watermelon out of that region. Especially since the market has been higher.”
All of this is a welcome change after last summer’s watermelon scene. “I went through the worst summer ever last year on this product. It was the worst I’d seen in 30 years. The minute we have a lot, the markets are nothing,” says Peterson.
He believes that will impact what this summer will look like for watermelon. “There was bankruptcy and others had watermelons last year in different regions outside my region--it was bad throughout the regions,” says Peterson. “We’ll see a different summer this year. There are also some unrealistic expectations based on last year’s market. I’m being asked for unrealistic deals for my summer and it’s unsustainable.”