Fresh Quest Inc., a Plantation, Fla.-based grower-shipper and marketer, expects to import several varieties of melons from Guatemala for 25 weeks, from November through April, said Alan Guttmann, the company’s president.
The company supplements Central American supplies the rest of the season with domestically grown melons.
Fresh Quest’s 2013-14 roster from Guatemala should include cantaloupes, honeydews, galias, mini-watermelons and full-size watermelons, Guttmann said.
Mother Nature hadn’t cooperated fully at the beginning of the deal, he said.
“We’re a little lighter than we anticipated to start. The weather’s been less than ideal. It’s always rainy in Central America this time of year, but this year counts as one of the rainier ones.”
Guttmann said he expected yields to be down this season not only in Guatemala but — based on what he hears from other growers and marketers — Honduras as well.
That’s not all bad news, however, Guttmann said, considering what he called the “doldrums” in which cantaloupe markets were stuck in late November.
Not that 2013 was anything out of the ordinary.
“Thanksgiving is a veg holiday,” Guttmann said.
The first cycle of Fresh Quest’s Guatemalan melon production takes place in the Zacapa region of the country, Guttmann said.
The company was in full production from Sacapulas by early December.
Production later shifts to Guatemala’s Mita region and should run concurrently with Honduran and Costa Rican melon production this year, Guttmann said.
Acreage in Mita is up this season, but Fresh Quest expects shipments from Zacapa to be down.
Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Guttmann hopes this season isn’t a repeat of the 2012-13 Central American deal.
“We hope (the decline in Sacapulas shipments) helps the market,” he said.
“The markets were oversupplied last year. I’m forever optimistic that we’ll have a good season, but last season was tough, and this one’s not starting out all that great.”
The Arizona deal went late this season, which didn’t help the beginning of the import deals, Guttman said. Nevertheless, he remained optimistic heading into the winter holidays and New Year.
“All the signs are good” for stronger markets, he said.
About 119 million pounds of honeydews and 421 million pounds of cantaloupe shipped from Guatemala to the U.S. last season, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.