(CORRECTED) A scalding summer in the Midwest and East could mean tight supplies of watermelons and sweet corn for many retailers this Labor Day.
Hot weather east of the Mississippi could mean that retailers will have to rely more on Texas for watermelon volumes this Labor Day, said Adam Lytch, operations manager for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc.
“The East Coast appears that it’s going to be pretty short,” Lytch said Aug. 4. “There’s been a lot of excess heat.”
Watermelon deals in Indiana and Delaware started on time, Lytch said, but because of the heat, they’ll finish early. Delaware will likely be out of the Labor Day picture entirely, and supplies out of Indiana will be minimal, Lytch said.
Randy Smith, vice president and salesman for Midwest Marketing Co. Inc., Vincennes, Ind., agreed. Indiana was in peak production the first week of August, but supplies will taper off before the main Labor Day push.
Michigan could pick up some of the slack for Midwestern watermelon supplies for Labor Day, Smith said.
Some Eastern volume could come from Virginia for holiday pull, but for the most part, Texas will be left to carry the load, he said.
If supplies do come on, watermelon prices will have to drop if retailers want to keep product moving, Lytch said.
“Markets have been really, really strong the last few weeks,” he said.
On Aug. 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $16-18 per cwt. of 24-inch bins of red-flesh seedless watermelons 45-60 from Indiana, up from $15 last year at the same time.
Sweet corn supplies, meanwhile, could peak too soon to take full advantage of Labor Day pull, said Dave Miedema, president of E. Miedema & Sons, Byron Center, Mich.
“Chains have been calling, wanting to quote for Labor Day, and I’m not sure what to say,” Miedema said.
An extremely cold, wet spring in Michigan yielded to a very hot summer, accelerating plant growth, he said.
“Starting in late July, everything started bunching up. We’ve been shipping eight loads a day instead of four.”
As a result, growers could peak about six days ahead of Labor Day, instead of the typical peak right around the holiday, Miedema said.
Quality, however, should be excellent.
“The corn has been very lush,” he said. “It’s thrived on the heat, humidity and moisture.”
Decreasing supplies, combined with stronger holiday demand, could push prices up. Movement was brisk and prices already were starting to inch up the week of Aug. 1, he said.
On Aug. 2, the USDA reported prices of $9-10.35 for cartons of four dozen bicolor sweet corn from Michigan, up from $6-6.50 last year at the same time.
(Note on correction: The article originally misquoted Randy Smith about Indiana's watermelon shipping season.)