Despite less than ideal weather conditions, importers expect a solid melon deal out of Mexico and Central America.
“So far our production out of Mexico is progressing according to plan,” Monique McLaws, marketing director of Ladera Ranch, Calif.-based Dulcinea Farms LLC, said Jan. 23.
“The harvest and quality of the fruits has been strong despite the cooler than average temperature at this time.”
McLaws said Dulcinea is sourcing miniature watermelons from southern Mexico until production shifts to northern Mexico in April, which also is when the company’s harvest of full-sized melons is slated to begin.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Jan. 18 that cartons of red-flesh seedless mini watermelons arriving in south Florida from Guatemala were $11-12 for cartons of 6s and $12-13 for 8s. Full-sized watermelons crossing the border at Nogales, Ariz., were 26 cents a pound for 4s and 28 cents a pound for 5s.
Honeydews arriving by boat from Guatemala through south Florida were $14.95 for two-thirds carton of 8s. Cantaloupes from Guatemala and Honduras were $14.95-15.95 for half cartons of 9s, the USDA said.
“The prices currently are very good on cantaloupes, and especially honeydews at the moment,” Atomic Torosian, partner in Crown Jewels Produce Co., Fresno, Calif., said Jan. 16.
Michael Warren, president of Central American Produce, Pompano Beach, Fla., said cantaloupe prices had been as high as $19 a carton, the highest price he had seen in at least two years.
“We expect that to change,” he said.
“We don’t like to see it that high. At the moment, demand is exceeding supply.”
Warren said the issue was merely a short-term gap in supplies and not a shortage.
Warren visited growers in Guatemala and Honduras in early January and liked what he saw.
“Everything is going great,” he said Jan. 16. “I was down there last week, and crops look terrific. The product looks great.”
Warren said Central American Produce expected cantaloupe from Guatemala to start arriving in the U.S. Jan. 23, and its first shipment of seedless watermelon from that country was expected Jan. 30.
The company already was a month into its honeydew deal in Honduras, and supplies were expected to continue at least through April.
Miky Suarez, manager of MAS Melons & Grapes LLC, Nogales, Ariz., said Jan. 18 that cold weather in Colima, Mexico, delayed honeydew harvest and affected production but added that volume was starting to increase.
“It is getting a little warmer, so I think the production will start increasing from now on,” he said.
“Quality has been very good on the first load that we have harvested. Sizes are not very big at this time, but sugars are very good with brix levels averaging around 12.”
Just to the north in Jalisco, watermelon volume was increasing Jan. 11, said Brent Harrison, president of Al Harrison Co., Nogales, Ariz. Harrison said quality was good, but overall acreage is down in the Mexican state.
“We’re attributing that to poor markets last year,” Harrison said.
“Some guys didn’t want to risk as much this year and planted less. That’s helping us maintain a higher price.”
Harrison said weather had not been an issue in Jalisco, and watermelons were arriving with good size, sugar and color. He said production will continue into early March there.
Harrison said his company expects to shift watermelon production in Mexico to Sinaloa in March and source honeydew and watermelon from Sonora starting in April.
Harrison also expects to start receiving watermelons from Costa Rica by Feb. 20 with peak volumes from late February into early March. Harrison said early rains delayed plantings there, but harvest still was expected to start on time.
Harrison said the majority of the company’s promotions are set for later in the year when supplies will be more plentiful.
“We entertain people who want to go on ad, but it’s more common when prices are lower in the spring and summer,” he said.
Vice president of sales Lou Kertesz said Fresh Quest Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla., sources the majority of its volume of cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon from Honduras from December through May.
Kertesz said fall rain and cool weather in that country led to a late start, and that size and yield are below normal, but quality has not been affected.
Kertesz said Fresh Quest has not had any weather-related issues in Costa Rica, Guatemala or Nicaragua.