Sluggish Mexican watermelon markets should pick up in December.

Heavy rains put a serious dent in the Jalisco, Mexico, watermelon crop marketed by Edinburg, Texas-based Bagley Produce Co., said Jeff Fawcett, the company’s sales manager.

Volumes from the first set of plants out of Jalisco were very scarce at the beginning of December, which wasn’t entirely unwelcome given the prices for that time of year, Fawcett said.

“It’s not a bad thing — the markets are not that hot,” he said. “We’re bringing very little up, and the quality’s not that spiffy.”

Fawcett expects markets to strengthen as fall gives way to winter.

“I can’t expect it to be any worse than what it is.”

On Dec. 3, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of 12 cents per pound for cartons of 4s and 5s from Mexico, down from 14-16 cents per pound last year at the same time.

Cartons of 6s were 8-10 cents, down from 10-12 cents last year.

A two-tiered market for Mexican watermelons could be the norm through about Dec. 15-20, said Brent Harrison, president of Nogales, Ariz.-based Al Harrison Co.

Product from the Hermosillo, Mexico, region, wrapping up in early December, will likely be cheaper, while new watermelons from Jalisco and Nayarit, Mexico, will be more expensive, Harrison said.

“There were good volumes out of Hermosillo, demand fell and markets hit rock bottom,” he said.

Nogales shippers are hustling to move Hermosillo product still in storage to make way for shipments from the south, Harrison said.

Jalisco’s second set of watermelons should begin arriving about Dec. 9, with volume by Dec. 24, too late to take advantage of Christmas pull, Fawcett said.

Al Harrison Co. expects to have ample volumes for Christmas, but Harrison does not expect big retail watermelon promotions for the holiday.

From about Dec. 9 on, Mexican watermelon volumes and quality should return to normal for that time of year, Fawcett said.

“The second set is looking really good,” he said.

Mexican volumes will continue to increase until they hit their peak in March, Fawcett said.