California’s water woes have been well-documented and the state’s melon acreage is diminishing, but westside melon grower-shippers said they anticipate normal volume for 2009.
“The deal could be even bigger than last year if we get enough water,” said Atomic Torosian, managing partner at Crown Jewels Marketing & Distribution LLC, Fresno, Calif.
A normal crop of cantaloupes in the San Joaquin Valley is about 20 million cartons, said Jerry Munson, manager of the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, Dinuba.
The companies have resurrected the venerable King Crow label, which was a fixture in the melon industry for decades.
Picking should begin the first week in July, Torosian said, and will continue into October, weather permitting.
The opening act for the valley’s 2009 melon crop will likely be seedless watermelons from Kirschenman Enterprises Inc., Edison, Calif.
Harvesting of the company’s green and yellow seedless melons should begin about June 10, said Wayde Kirschenman, vice president.
Volume should be about the same as 2008, he said.
However, the company has increased its production of the yellow seedless variety.
The harvest at Westside Produce Co., Firebaugh, could begin as early at July 1, said Jim Malanca, co-owner and sales manager.
“We planted our first cantaloupes the last Monday in March, but we usually go by the bloom date,” he said, “And the bloom date says we’ll be able to start picking July 1.”
That date is not a signal for all retailers to plan major promotions for the Fourth of July holiday.
“It takes four or five days to get the fruit to the East Coast,” Malanca said. “There would not be enough back east for the holiday weekend.”
Depending on the weather, picking could start before July at Stamoules Produce Co., Mendota, Calif., said Demetri Karabinis, salesman.
The company’s cantaloupes and honeydews may start going into the S&S branded cartons as early as late June, Karabinis said, but it could be as late as early July.
Water will not be a problem at Stamoules, and volume should be about the same as the 2008 deal, he said.
The all-cantaloupe program at V.H. Azhderian & Co. Inc., Los Banos, Calif., could hit 900,000 cartons this season, said Josie Rodriguez, office manager.
Los Banos is in the heart of an uncertain water region, but Azhderian & Co. will have enough water for the 2009 crop, she said.