Southeastern watermelon growers dodge cold and rain - The Packer

Southeastern watermelon growers dodge cold and rain

04/15/2009 10:08:16 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

Southern Corporate Packers Inc., Immokalee, Fla., will start harvesting April 18, says Brian Arrigo, president.

Despite small setbacks from winter freezes and April rain in Georgia, watermelon growers and packers said they expect the Florida deal to start in late April and smoothly transition to Georgia production after Memorial Day.

Brian Arrigo, president of Southern Corporate Packers Inc., Immokalee, Fla., said he planned to start harvesting April 18 in the earliest watermelon producing state.

“We are ready to get fired up and the crop looks really good,” he said April 14. “The quality is really good. Everything made it through the freezes well.”

January and February freezing temperatures delayed south Florida plantings, and cold weather that struck northern Florida growing regions April 9 burnt the tops off a few of the plants and leaves. Otherwise, Arrigo said he didn’t expect much production loss.  Last season, temperatures fell to 29 degrees and the plants still produced 60,000 pounds to the acre, so Arrigo said spring volume should come along well.

Volume to hit in early May

Arrigo said he expects promotable volume in early May. Southern Corporate Packers plans to start its Georgia pickings in the Milan, Ga., area on-time in mid-June after its Ocala, Fla.-area production winds down.

Southern Corporate Packers grows watermelon in the Immokalee and Devil’s Garden area, in Wauchula, Fla., for central Florida and in Trenton, near Ocala, for its later season northern Florida deal.

Lloyd Rosen, marketing director for William Manis Co. Produce Marketing, Plant City, Fla., expects to start watermelon packing watermelon April 27 from the Clewiston, Fla./Lake Okeechobee growing region. Volume should run through late May before Manis switches to its northern Florida panhandle production in Marianna, Fla. That volume should run through the Fourth of July when Manis switches to Missouri production.

Rosen characterized the southern Florida growing season as slow. He said the plants didn’t get enough nights of temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s and days of 70s and 80s temperatures. Despite the temperature shortfall, Rosen said quality appears excellent and that there is a lot of time for plant growth leading into late April.

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