Strong volumes, weak demand hammer watermelon prices

12/04/2013 12:40:00 PM
Mike Hornick

Higher supplies and good growing conditions in Sonora sent watermelon prices tumbling as the west Mexico winter deal approached.

“We’ve seen high production out of the area, which is really affecting this market,” Brent Harrison, president of Nogales, Ariz.-based Harrison Fresh, said Nov. 6. “Lately it’s been light demand with strong volume, and that’s caused our prices to fall.”

Red flesh seedless watermelons types 4 and 5 crossing at Nogales shipped for 6-8 cents a pound Nov. 15, a sharp drop from Oct. 22 pricing of 22-24 cents and year-ago prices of 16-18 cents, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“I believe there’s more fruit this season than last year due to the number of crossings we’re seeing on USDA reports,” Harrison said. “A combination of a couple of good years of watermelon pricing, production and overall increases in acreage are giving us a bigger supply than normal.”

Harrison Fresh expects to prepare much of its volume with the portable sorting lines it adopted last year.

“They really did a good job for us,” Harrison said. “Our customers were happy with our pack. It got us consistent sizing to stay in places like Costco and Wal-Mart that require a specific range.”

The company, which concentrated on watermelon and hard-shell squash last year, has added zucchini and yellow straight-neck squash this year. As of early November, no market had been established on the new items.

“In my opinion, that’s more due to the fact that areas that should have finished up, for example California, are still cutting (squash) at this time, and production is good out of Sonora,” Harrison said. “There’s an overlap. Everybody’s had good weather, and it’s just kept them in the game.”

Sandia adds minis

Sandia Distributors Inc. began offering mini seedless watermelons the beginning of October. It’s a new item this year for the Nogales, Ariz.-based distributor.

“We hope to get anywhere from 250,000 to 300,000 (50-pound) packages,” sales manager Bill Spence said.

“We see more and more a trend toward mini watermelons and an acceptance of them. We thought it was important to have them,” Spence said.

Production of the fruit started in Caborca and was expected to proceed to Hermosillo and Obregon with availability through December. After March, the spring deal should follow the return route.



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