Problems that began with hail March 29 in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley continued in the second half of May with hail in Georgia May 22 and heavy rains in Florida and Georgia from Tropical Storm Beryl, later downgraded to a tropical depression, the week of May 28.
“The next 10 days in Northern Florida and Southern Georgia will be real iffy,” Matt Solana, vice president of operations and supply chain for Jackson Farming Co., Autryville, N.C., said May 29.
Some growing areas may have received as much as 14 inches of rain starting May 28, Solana said. By the weekend of June 2-3, growers would have a much better idea of damages, he said.
The amount of rainfall varied widely by location, however. Adel, Ga.-based Borders Melons East, a division of Edinburg, Texas-based Borders Melon Co. Inc., received just 3/4 of an inch in its Georgia watermelon fields, Mark Paul, salesman and general manager, said May 29.
“It actually should be perfect,” Paul said, citing fields in need of rain.
Northern Florida was hit considerably harder, Paul said, but it also was dry, and the sandy soil in fields there should act as a sponge for much of the rain.
“I don’t think there will be major issues.”
Jackson Farming’s Georgia acreage was lucky to dodge the May 22 hailstorm, Solana said, but others weren’t as lucky. All that’s left where vines were shredded, he said, was whatever was sitting in the fields when the storm hit, he said.
About 40 to 50 of Borders’ Georgia watermelon acres were damaged by the hailstorm, but even those fields didn’t suffer total losses, Paul said.
“We dodged a bullet,” he said.
Because of the nasty weather, prices will likely rise and stay high through June, Solana said.
Georgia should see one of the better starts to its spring watermelon market in years, Paul said, though he hoped prices stayed low enough to maintain brisk movement and promotions.
“I hope we don’t see any spikes,” he said.
On May 29, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $20-21 per cwt. for 24-inch bins of red seedless 36s from Florida, up from $13 last year at the same time.
Prices of Texas watermelons started in the mid- to high $20s earlier this spring, fell, then headed back up again in May, said Charlie LaGrange, salesman for Edinburg, Texas-based J&D Produce Inc.