The imported watermelon market is currently seeing a little more volume on product forcing some shifting in the market.
“There’s light volume of melons around this time of year and that’s normal,” says Brent Harrison of Greenzen, LLC in Nogales, Az. “But the Central American production has kicked in with a little more volume this week and that’s made the melon market a bit softer.”
Currently approximately 20-30 loads per week are arriving from Mexico via Nogales, which is about normal notes Harrison. “But I believe now that Guatemala has started production, it’s about 200 loads for the week that came into the U.S. I assume that it’s a bit more than last year,” says Harrison. Other countries, such as Honduras, are also shipping minimal volume at this time.
The Mexican supply that is coming in is having some challenges. “There are issues with disease down in Mexico that has restricted supply. That’s what made this market a few weeks ago. It was as high as .50 cents/lb.,” says Harrison. “Also, the winter crop just doesn’t get the tonnage the summer crops get and that’s just due to the weather. It’s cooler, shorter days and some of that area is more prone to viruses. A lot of growers use a grafted root system for melons to combat that.”
Meanwhile the sizing is relatively normal on Mexican melons. “On the front end we see bigger fruit coming in. We see more 4s and 5s in cartons,” says Harrison. “As we get into our cuttings more, we start seeing smaller fruit such as 6s and 8s.”
Melon demand in North America of course can often be tied to warm weather. “Demand at this time is not as high compared to spring and summer. People just aren’t consuming as much of it as they do in spring and summer,” says Harrison, noting however there does need to be some availability of melons. “They are available year-round and a lot of our customers use them for value-added products. There are juicers and processors out there that use melons year round. We handle less volume in the winter just knowing that demand changes.”
That new volume of melons coming in is one factor that’s affected pricing on melons. “I’ve seen a slide on the market over the last two weeks. We had prices over .50 cents/lb. and now we’re seeing prices around .25-.30 cents/lbs.,” says Harrison. “It’s a combination of more volume and weather. Also, the market got so high that some people pulled it off of shelves. We priced ourselves out a little bit.” Overall, prices right now are a bit lower compared to last year.
Looking ahead, Harrison sees an auto correct coming, even if he doesn’t see a change in volume. “This will correct itself very quick,” he says. “Cheap pricing will stimulate more demand and it’ll start moving through the system. People will step back in because melons are cheap enough to have on the shelves. I see it improving over the next few weeks.”
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