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Canada biggest importer

Florida watermelon season looking strong

Florida is usually the largest producer of watermelons as growers are able to boast two seasons a year with one during the spring season and one beginning in autumn. This year’s second crop is well underway and the results are looking strong. “Since Florida has southern fields we are able to start earlier and end later than other growers,” explains Gordon Hunt of the National Watermelon Promotion Board.

While weather can always pose a threat, the autumn watermelon season has experienced optimal conditions with no hurricanes or harsh cold to damage growth. Pests and disease issues often correlate with rain. All that sunny weather has led Florida to receive bountiful and healthy yields.

The domestic crop is almost finished resulting in the heaviest year for volume in the United States. Annual movement and revenue has increased since 2007. The majority of spring crop sales for Florida occur during a two-month period starting in mid-April and running through mid-June. Sales peek during the buildup to Memorial Day and again leading into Independence Day. Spring tonnage has increased over the last seven years from 462 million in 2007 to 768 million pounds in 2014. Like any commodity, watermelon follows the laws of supply and demand which can manifest itself in increased acreage following a year of short supply and vice-versa. Growers make up for loss of land with impeccable timing for the market. “Florida has the first and last crop of the season so growers get a higher value.”

Florida generally represents around two-thirds of the supply to Canada. Texas, California and Georgia are the other largest producing states within America and over 300 million pounds is exported to Canada in a normal year. However, watermelon can grow in multiple locations and growers often take advantage of the seasons by having many farms. “You need 90 days of sunshine to grow watermelons,” explains Hunt, “there are American growers in Canada who ship to the US and Canadian growers in America who ship to Canada.”

Researching watermelon is important to Florida growers. By employing new production methods the cost of cultivating watermelon decreases which benefits consumers at their grocery store. A specific African variety of melon has been shown to fight HIV. Crossbreeding this melon with others will allow the transfer of this attribute. One technique practised in Japan for hundreds of years, in the words of Hunt, “The Japanese plant onions with their watermelon. We’re working with USDA to determine the importance together.”

Cross breeding watermelons to become disease and weather resistant is a top priority. While not a lot of pests live on watermelons they are easier to prevent, than eradicate. Defects like hollow hearts occur when a melon is cracked within. The fault actually sweetens the taste of the melon, but processors are wary to accept affected fruits. “Diseases change and evolve to become more resistant, although watermelons are hearty; we want to be prepared to deal with any problems in the future.”

For more information please contact:
Gordon Hunt
National Watermelon Promotion Board
Tel: +1 863-619-7575
Fax: +1 863-619-7577

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