Honeydew melons out of Mexico have been in short supply on the U.S. market, but as February began, Nogales, Ariz.-based shippers such as SunFed and MAS Melons & Grapes LLC reported volumes were close to those projected.
While the market as a whole totaled only about 25% of the volume from January 2011, MAS Melons was hitting 85% of its target, said Miguel Suarez, managing partner.
“We’re harvesting in Colima now,” he said.
“I don’t know why, but we aren’t much affected. The 15% we’re missing is mostly because of a little cooler weather than we should be having.”
Hurricane Jova devastated parts of Colima in October. There were also issues with a virus and with replanting.
“They call it the yellow virus and it affects the plant, not the fruit,” Suarez said.
“The plant dies before its time, and you can’t get the yields.”
SunFed benefited from differences in elevation in Colima.
“Fortunately, we were able to get in and plant in some higher areas with more porous soil, resulting in SunFed receiving 90% of the loads crossing through Nogales the week of Jan. 29,” said Danny Mandel, president of the Rio Rico, Ariz.-based company.
Sizes were peaking on 6s, with availability on 5s expected to increase. Quality and brix were high, he said.
“Volume should gradually build each week out of Mexico,” Mandel said.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, unofficial prices on Mexican honeydews crossing at Nogales were $20.35-23.95 for 2/3 cartons of 5-6s Jan. 30. Year-ago prices were just $9.35.
The shortage had as much or more to with Central American production.
“They had a tropical system in the fall that, while not garnering the headlines that a major hurricane does, caused extensive flooding in areas of Honduras and Guatemala, disrupting planting schedules,” Mandel said.
“Since then their weather has been seasonally cool and has apparently delayed their volume on honeydews.”
The spring melon crop in Hermosillo and Caborca was going into the ground the first week of February, said Brian Vandervoet, president of Vandervoet & Associates Inc., Rio Rico, Ariz.
“I believe in Caborca, honeydew acreage is going to decrease maybe 20% or 30%,” Vandervoet said.
“They might see double the money. Cantaloupes and watermelons grown in Hermosillo will have the same acreage (as before).”
Central America dominates cantaloupe exports to the U.S. from mid-December through March, and there have been supply issues with that melon as well.