“With the fuel stabilizing, we have more consistency, as far as pricing with the fuel. But generally, it’s in the low double-digit figures.”
Michael Warren, president of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Central American Produce, agreed the market improved toward the end of 2009.
“Currently, the outlook is a bit stronger than how it began,” he said.
“The outlook is looking pretty good. Fruit is being bought up and moving at a decent rate. Prices were slightly lower than last year, but we figure it’s good that consumers are getting fruit they can afford.”
Growing conditions in Guatemala and Honduras had been acceptable, Warren said.
“Weather-wise, it’s been excellent and we’re getting the quality and yields from it,” he said.
Things were a bit different a year earlier, Warren added.
“Last year, everything went well, but production was a bit off due to the weather,” he said. “The major difference is better land preparation and better quality melons.”
Optimism was high for the upcoming Mexican watermelon season, said Nick Rendon, division sales manager of the Rio Rico, Ariz., office of the Los Angeles-based Giumarra Cos.
“The outlook so far looks good,” said Rendon, whose company brings in melons from Colima.
Rendon said he hoped the upcoming deal would be smoother than last year’s.
“Prices in the beginning of the deal and winter were just outstanding, but as spring got here, it got pretty ugly,” he said. “Prices were too high.”
Ladera Ranch, Calif.-based Dulcinea Farms LLC also reported an up-and-down season a year ago.
“Probably the same as everyone — 2009 was certainly an interesting year,” said John McGuigan, vice president of sales and marketing. “But, all in all, we had a very solid year at Dulcinea.”
The economy probably had something to do with the rough ride, McGuigan said.
“I think what we found was — and it wasn’t just at Dulcinea, but across the industry — one of the challenges a high-quality differentiated marketer faced was a lot of consumers were trading down from a mini PureHeart to a full-size seedless watermelon that a lot of retailers were selling aggressively,” he said.
“But that wasn’t the only area — we saw bagged salads lose to the head lettuce and specialty items lose to core items.”
Allison Moore, spokeswoman for the Nogales-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, said a no-news-is-good-news scenario applies.
“I’m not hearing people saying the world is ending or it’s the most terrific ever. I don’t think people are really alarmed about anything, at this point,” she said.