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"Consumers should see better flavor in domestic cantaloupe"

As the California domestic cantaloupe season begins, the transition between it and the newly-wrapped up import season looks smooth.

“Conversion seems to be progressing smoothly. Though reports are there are still container ships to arrive and the volume within those, the timing of that supply, is an issue,” says Steve Patricio of Westside Produce in Firebaugh, Ca. “Mostly because it continues a supply imbalance.”

Imbalance is how the import season is characterized when it saw cantaloupe arrive largely from countries such as Costa Rica, Guatemala and the Honduras. “It was a difficult season because supply and demand were pretty much out of sync the whole time,” says Patricio, noting the import season runs from mid-November to mid-May. “Import supplies were nothing greater than prior years. However the timing of those supplies relative to when retailers chose to merchandise the product never seemed to be in sync.”

Even supply

Meanwhile the domestic supply, which began last week, looks good with an anticipated continuous supply of fruit. Additionally, Patricio says growers have worked hard to improve the taste profile of fruit after a difficult season or two.

“The industry had been asked to adopt long-shelf life (LSL) products that don’t go bad as fast and have a firmer meat because of the conversion to more cut-up processing that consumers are demanding. This has created a less desirable flavor profile in these new varieties,” he says. Unhappy with the results, the industry has moved to get flavor back into the products and believe this season, consumers will see a much-improved flavor profile.

Aroma back in
“The flavour profile is different due to aroma. Our nose is an important part of our taste. Creating these LSL varieties eliminated the aromas,” says Patricio. “Even though the sugars and other flavour characteristics were distinctly higher, the consumer had a more difficult time picking it up due to the lack of aromas. The industry has asked to put more aroma in and we’re seeing that. It’s subtle but we’re seeing it.”

Patricio hopes for a more balanced supply-demand ratio this year which will help pricing as well. “Last year we had a bumper crop and that was problematic in many ways. But this season there’ve been a few shippers who have left the industry or scaled back their plantings so I’d say it will be more in sync,” he says. “And last year’s prices were very depressed so I hope farm gate prices would be up this year.”
Steve Patricio
Westside Produce
Tel: +1 (559) 659-3025

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