Even though Colorado is a minor player in the cantaloupe industry, the outbreak had a major impact on the entire industry, hurting growers and retailers as well as decreasing consumer demand and confidence. Yet Patricio and others remained optimistic.
“We’re being told that retailers who are now keeping placement and space of comparable dimensions from a year ago are pleasantly surprised that movement through stores is closer to normal than expected,” Patricio said.
“Retailers initially expected volume to be off, but we’re hearing our customers say that consumer confidence in the product seems to be rebounding well,” said Daren Van Dyke, director of sales and marketing for Five Crowns Marketing in Brawley, Calif.
He expects to begin sourcing cantaloupes from the Imperial Valley May 5.
“We’re very optimistic about how the crop is going to come off because we’ve got pretty ideal weather now.”
Another California grower-shipper agreed with that future outlook.
“Retailers who we’ve talked to say sales (of cantaloupes) are back to normal and they’re optimistic about summer, and that’s a good sign,” said Rodney Van Bebber, sales manager for Pappas & Co., Mendota, Calif.
He said their cantaloupes coming from the southern tip of California look good and should begin shipping at the end of May.
East Coast retailer Giant Eagle promotes melons for the entire summer.
“Whenever possible, we work with regional suppliers to bring our customers the best our region has to offer,” Ignatz said.
Watermelon producers are also feeling optimistic about their crop.
With long-range weather forecasts showing warm and dry weather in early watermelon growing areas, the market should be poised to capitalize.
“This is an earlier season than expected (due to the mild weather conditions),” said Gordon Hunt, director of marketing and communications for the National Watermelon Promotion Board, Orlando, Fla.
“The growers are pleased at how the fruit is setting and the vines look good. At this point, it should be a very good year for retail shoppers if we continue to have good product coming in. This is all good news from a marketing and sales standpoint.”
Matt Solana, vice president of operations for Jackson Farming Co. in Autryville, N.C., said the harvest of seedless watermelons should start in the Sarasota, Fla., region the first week of May and will continue until about June 5. Their acreage is up about a third from last year.