Joining the many crops that are late this year coast to coast, the domestic cantaloupe crop is seeing a delayed start as well. “Typically we start around the first or second week of May. This year we didn’t start packing until May 23,” says Justin Bootz with Legend Produce LLC. “We didn’t change planting dates. It was just a mild and cool winter and spring and the fruit didn’t get the heat units to sprout on time. Almost every shipper here in the desert had that experience.”
While some cantaloupe supplies are still coming out of Mexico, the current crop is out of Maricopa and Yuma, Arizona and the Imperial Valley in California. “We grow in Yuma and the Imperial Valley and the temperatures are pretty below average,” says Bootz. He notes that while the temperatures generally hit over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperatures right now are in the mid to low 90s and low temperatures of low 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
In all, that makes supplies tight going into the weekend. While contracts are generally being covered, there’s not a lot extra for the open market. “We’re getting calls from retailers we don’t have contracts with looking for fruit for this weekend. We’re covering our commitments and then we have a bit extra to sell on the open market--it really varies from shipper to shipper,” he says.
Strong cantaloupe pricing
Of course, this means demand is strong and exceeding supply. While contract pricing is below the market, open market prices are between $16-$20, depending on the size. “The bigger the size, the higher the price. So nine-count cantaloupe are going for closer to $20. The 12-count is closer to $15-$16. Historically it’s a very good price for this time of year,” says Bootz, adding though that while supplies are tight, the fruit has high Brix and are good eating melons.
Looking ahead, supplies should increase going forward and next week, Legend Produce will also begin picking domestic honeydew--another late crop this year. “Despite the late start, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the fruit will also be delayed. It’s probably going to bunch up a bit and we’ll have some weeks here in mid-June where we have very high volume but we prepare for that by getting retailers on board with ads and promoting to help soak up that volume,” says Bootz.