Watermelon marketers are forecasting a strong sales year, with comparatively few winter weather events having gotten in their way.
“Last year was a challenge, but all in all, it turned out OK,” said Art Perry, chief executive officer of George Perry & Sons Inc., Manteca, Calif., which grows seedless watermelons in several regions.
“You can always say it could always be better, but doing the job correctly, it came through OK.”
For awhile, weather problems during the early part of the growing season last year led to a glut during certain times, Perry said.
“We had fruit bunched up,” he said. “Because of the cool weather, it came off at one time. But you have to commend the stores. They did a wonderful job of moving it.”
As of March 22, cartons of size 5s in red-flesh seedless watermelons from Guatemala were priced at $20-20.50, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Size 6s from Guatemala were $21.50. A year earlier, size 6s from Guatemala were $20.The Florida season was shaping up to arrive a bit early this year, said Mark Arney, executive director of the Orlando, Fla.-based National Watermelon Promotion Board.
“We’ve had much better growing conditions than we had last year, when we had a real cold snap,” he said. “This year, it came earlier, so everybody is hoping it continues that way.”
Import numbers were ahead of last year, he said.
“Prices, while not as high as last year, at this point, I think people are reasonably satisfied,” Arney said.
Rick Sullivan, president of William Manis Produce Marketing in Plant City, Fla., agreed that the outlook for the season leading up to Memorial Day will be better than last year.
“Last year, the Memorial Day … market was high and strong,” he said. “This growing season has been much better, so I’d anticipate there will be more melons with a better marketable price.”
Greg Leger, president and partner with Leger & Son Inc., Cordele, Ga., said he anticipated harvesting would begin by April 25.
“It’s going to be early compared to last year, but last year was not normal,” he said.
“We had to replant. But it’s been absolutely perfect this year. We anticipate a good start in late April and get into volume around the first of May.”
Ward Thomas, owner of McAllen, Texas-based Majestic Produce Sales Co., said weather last year complicated the market.
"It worked out good last year until Memorial Day,” he said. “Everybody replanted because of the Florida freezes, and then way too much production came out by Memorial Day, and the melon market was down for awhile.”