He said he anticipates a better market overall this year.
“It’s going to be a little bit different this year, but I don’t really know, he said.
Retail activity will pick up as the spring progresses, said Dan Van Groningen, vice president of Van Groningen & Sons Inc., Manteca.
“Many watermelons are going to do fine during the off-season., but when we get into May, many chains want to get into your conventional seedless watermelon,” he said. “But the mini watermelon is becoming very popular, especially in Japan. We’ve gotten a lot more interest in mini’s, but the quality has to hold up on that ride.”
The cantaloupe and honeydew markets have been brisk, marketing agents said.
“The past few weeks, we saw the demand for honeydews pick up, particularly for smaller sizes,” said Don Johnston, melon program director for Frontera Produce, Edinburg, Texas.
“There’s more of the larger sizes available, and with everything in short supply, that’s where the demand is. And it has been similar on the cantaloupes, as well. The demand has picked up over the last several weeks, and primarily on 12s and 15s — the smaller sizes. The larger sizes have been abundant and they’ve been lagging behind a little bit.
As of March 22, half-carton packages of size 9 cantaloupes from Guatemala were priced at $10-13, and size 12s, $16-17, according to the USDA. Size 9s from Honduras were $11.50; 12s, $14-17; and 15s, $17-18. At the same point in 2010, 9s from Honduras were $20-20.50; and 12s and 15s were $20-23. Size 9s from Guatemala were $18.50; 12s, $20-21; and 15s, $21.
Two-thirds cartons of sizes 5 and 6 honeydews from Guatemala were priced at $16-17; and 8s, $17.50-18. Size 4s from Honduras were $13.50; 6s, $16-18.50; and 8s, $16. A year earlier, 4s from Guatemala were $15; 5s were $18; and 6s were $16.50-18.
Brent Harrison, president of Al Harrison Produce Co., Nogales, Ariz., said the honeydew market was doing well, but watermelons presented a few challenges.
“It’s hard to get watermelon in winter for some varieties,” he said. “We’re trying to get some varieties that do that. So we’re trying for varieties that maintain that, especially coming from the southern states of Mexico. They’re asking for the right variety all the time.”
Chris Ciruli, partner in Rio Rico, Ariz.-based Ciruli Bros., said his company would start its melon deal in late April, with honeydews coming out of Mexico.
“Typically we should see good production as we go into the first part of May,” he said. “You can write some good ads for that time. You normally see a very reasonable f.o.b. as you compete against watermelons and other melons as a promotable item. And the crops look to be in good shape coming out, after the cold weather we had in Mexico early on.”