Barring an abrupt change in weather patterns, retailers waiting to cash in on westside California cantaloupes and honeydews will have to be patient.
Temperatures, accompanied by rare spring San Joaquin Valley rains, were more than 15 degrees below normal into mid-May. Planting schedules were disrupted and could lead to spotty supplies in late July, grower-shippers said.
Retailers should remember the region enjoyed better than average growing weather in recent years, said Jim Malanca, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Westside Produce Co., Firebaugh, Calif. This year, however, the law of averages caught up with the melon industry.
“We just hope the weather will warm, improve the averages, so that we won’t experience anything that will affect our volume,” he said.
If warmer temperatures don’t arrive in June, retailers may have to be serviced on an as needed basis, Malanca said.
The first plantings of Westside’s cantaloupes and honeydews are scheduled for early July picking, he said
At Legend Produce LLC, picking of the first cantaloupe and honeydew plantings could start about July 4, said Barry Zwillinger, partner. For the first time, Legend will be marketing commercial volumes of a new cantaloupe variety that it has been testing for a few years.
“It has really proven to be a real success for both retail and processing,” Zwillinger said.
Legend will plant about 500 acres of the new variety, more than 20% of the company’s overall cantaloupe acreage, he said.
Ladera Ranch, Calif.-based Dulcinea Farms LLC will feature HoneyBliss, the company’s proprietary honeydew variety, and its Tuscan style cantaloupes, said John McGuigan, vice president of sales and marketing. Picking is scheduled to begin about July 4, he said.
Through Dulcinea’s sustainability program, the company has reduced the amount of corrugated paper used in packaging. Instead, the company is putting stickers on the fruit, said Monique McLaws, marketing manager.
“We use 12 different stickers to communicate product attributes,” she said. “Each sticker has a different message that is fun and catchy.”
Steve Smith, co-owner of Turlock Fruit Co., Turlock, Calif., is not concerned about the inclement spring.
“It’s still early in the game,” he said in mid-May. “If the weather turns and we have a warm June, we can be right on schedule.”
That would translate to first pickings about July 4, he said. As with most other westside grower-shippers, harvesting will continue into early October.