Warmer weather lifts watermelon markets(VIDEO UPDATE, April 26) Lower watermelon volumes out of Mexico are buoying markets, and a slow start to the Florida deal could sustain them.

Markets will likely stay strong at least until Texas begins shipping volume, said Brent Harrison, president of Nogales, Ariz.-based Al Harrison Co.

“We’re still seeing a lot of demand,” Harrison said April 23. “Texas will be a factor soon, but they’re not at this point. Supplies are still fairly light, and we’re maintaining our prices.”

Ward Thomas, owner of McAllen, Texas-based Majestic Produce Co., also reported strong demand in late April.

“The market seems to be holding strong, and I think it will stay that way because the pipeline isn’t full,” he said.

That pipeline will likely fill about May 10, when Texas begins shipping in volume, Thomas said.

Customers of Raleigh, N.C.-based Etheridge Produce LLC were asking for Florida watermelons in the second half of April, but Gordon Etheridge, the company’s president, had to tell them to wait.

“We’re really having a very poor season so far,” Etheridge said. “It’s either been cold or hot, back and forth. Everything in storage now is coming from Mexico or offshore.”

Typically, Etheridge Produce is shipping from Florida by the week of April 22. This year, Etheridge said he’d have some Florida production by early May, but volume shipments wouldn’t begin until the end of the month.

On April 23, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of 22 to 24 cents per pound for 24-inch bins of 35- and 45-count red seedless watermelons from Mexico, up from 22 cents last year at the same time.

Pollenization issues early in the Mexican watermelon deal contributed to lower yields, which were still being felt in the second half of April, Harrison said.

Quality, however, was very good, and fruit was traveling well, Harrison said.

Some Texas shippers were expected to begin shipping watermelons grown under hoops about April 27-28, but volumes wouldn’t likely come until early May, Harrison said.

Al Harrison Co. expected to begin its Texas and Arizona deals in earnest around Memorial Day. The company’s domestic deals will likely run through August, Harrison said.

Arizona and Texas growers reported good growing conditions in April, Harrison said.

Majestic began shipping watermelons from Texas’s Rio Grande Valley the week of April 15, Thomas said.

The company reported a wide range of sizes, high sugar levels and excellent overall quality, though it was too early to gauge what yields would be, he said.

Thomas said Majestic would continue to bring in Mexican watermelons through Nogales “as long as the market warrants.”