Smaller, high-quality offshore melon crop expected - The Packer

Smaller, high-quality offshore melon crop expected

11/17/2010 02:24:38 PM
Andy Nelson

Central American melon volumes could be down as much as 20% this season. A dry growing season should mean excellent quality and peak sizing for melons that make it to the U.S.

Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Fresh Quest Produce Inc. expects to begin bringing in melons from Central America at the end of November, with volume shipments expected for Christmas, said Lou Kertesz, vice president.

Wet weather at the beginning of the growing season posed some threats, but Kertesz said for the most part they didn’t materialize.

“We’re on schedule,” he said. “There was a lot of talk about delays with all the rains, but fortunately we got everything in.”

Dry growing weather should mean excellent weather, with fruit peaking on the 9s and 12s U.S. retailers like, Kertesz said.

Industrywide, volumes should be down at least 15% from last season, continuing a trend that began in 2009, with Costa Rica and Guatemala seeing the biggest acreage reductions, Kertesz said. Compared to 2008, 2010 volumes could be down as much as 25%, he said.

“A lot of shippers have scaled back,” he said. “The last few years haven’t been that successful for some. We’re expecting a significant drop.”

Fresh Quest’s Central American melon volumes, however, should be up about 5% this season, Kertesz said.

Other shippers have found a hard time finding good melons tailored for Central America, Kertesz said. He said Fresh Quest’s investment in research and development was paying off.

Fresh Quest has had great success, for instance, with its Caribbean Gold harper-variety cantaloupe in Central America. Other growers have found it too hard to grow, he said.

The company will ship harper cantaloupes, honeydews and a significantly larger number of seedless watermelons this season, Kertesz said.

Rainy growing-season weather in Guatemala and Honduras meant delays and fewer seeds planted early for Ayco Farms Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla., said Ken Kodish, key account manager.

As a result, the first shipments won’t likely arrive in Florida until Nov. 22-23, about two weeks later than normal, Kodish said.

And personal watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe volumes will be lighter than usual for at least the first month of the deal, he said. In some early fields, just 60% to 70% of normal volumes were planted because of the rain.

“Volumes initially will be steady, but not heavy,” he said. “They’ll be steady through December, then up considerably in January.”

Volumes should pick up enough in the New Year for Ayco that by the time the deal winds down, in mid- to late May, total shipments should equal if not surpass last season’s 3 million boxes, Kodish said.

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