Labor Day may not see enough corn, watermelon - The Packer

Labor Day may not see enough corn, watermelon

08/09/2012 11:37:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Sweet corn supplies could be scarce and watermelon markets should strengthen as Labor Day nears.

Typically in the weeks leading up to Labor Day, what Dave Miedema, president of Byron Center, Mich.-based E. Miedema & Sons, calls the “dog days of August,” sweet corn markets can take a dip.

Not this year, however. But the stronger demand in early August has come at the expense of lower volumes, a situation that will continue through Labor Day, thanks to the Michigan deal running almost two weeks ahead of schedule.

“Our big plantings are hitting when movement is at its lowest,” Miedema said. “It’s kind of an unfortunate thing.”

Every week, Miedema talks to sweet corn growers around the U.S., and this season, it seems to be the same story everywhere, he said. Deals in New York, Ohio, Delaware and other states are running ahead of schedule, raising the possibility that some shippers could have to scramble to meet Labor’s Day-related demand.

“It will be very interesting to see how (shippers) can cover commitments,” he said.

On Aug. 7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $9.35-10.85 for four-dozen minimum cartons and crates of bicolor and yellow corn from Michigan, up from $8-9.35 last year at the same time.

Despite not peaking when it would like to, E. Miedema & Sons has enjoyed surprisingly good quality and yields thus far this summer, Miedema said.

“Earlier in the season, we thought it would be a real struggle,” he said. “We were very concerned about dry conditions. But the quality has been excellent.”

Six straight weeks of around-the-clock irrigation paid off for this year’s corn crop, he said.

Watermelon demand has been just fair this summer for Adel, Ga.-based Borders Melons East, a division of Edinburg, Texas-based Borders Melon Co. Inc., with small surges in demand here and there but nothing sustained, said Mark Paul, salesman and general manager.

But Paul said markets could strengthen in the run up to Labor Day.

“I don’t anticipate any major changes in pricing, but it could tighten up some.”

Markets for large watermelons, in particular, are likely to strengthen, he said.

On Aug. 7, the USDA reported prices of $15-16 per cwt. for 24-inch bins of red flesh seedless watermelons 36-45s from Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, up from $14-15 last year.

West Texas supplies will ramp up as Labor Day nears, Paul said.

“We’ll be pulling heavily from there” to meet holiday demand, he said. New Mexico and other watermelon-growing states also will play bigger roles in the deal as August progresses, supplementing supplies from Delaware, Indiana and North Carolina, Paul said.



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