Growers expect enough water for the season

06/04/2010 10:56:18 AM
Dawn Withers

Though early cantaloupes and honeydew melons shipping from California in July may be smaller than usual, grower-shippers said they expect bunching of supplies by August.

Retail promotions timed to the main summer holidays won’t be affected, grower-shippers said, but prices may dip if there’s a glut of cantaloupes and honeydew on the market in August because of cooler spring temperatures.

Melon bunching may happen because crops delayed by unfavorable spring weather will mature more quickly when the summer temperatures warm up, causing multiple plantings to come online all at once, growers said.

Any supply gluts are expected to be short-lived.

“We hope to see a normal distribution as we’ve laid out in our crop plan, but we will closely monitor the weather to proactively anticipate any changes,” said Monique McLaws, director of marketing at Dulcinea Farms, Ladera Ranch, Calif.

Water also isn’t expected to be a major issue for growers because of larger-than expected allocations than previous estimates last fall. Growers said they were anticipating around 10% water allocations but are looking to get up to 40% for this year, something that could change again if California continues to experience drought conditions.

Garrett Patricio, vice president of operations for Westside Produce Co., Firebaugh, Calif., said no one is expecting 100% water allocations with most companies, including Westside Produce, grappling with water shortages for more than five years.

“Our growers have water and we will have plenty of melons,” Patricio said.

This spring also means Westside Produce will be introducing comprehensive case-level traceability in its field pack operations and is participating in Rapid Recall Exchange, a uniform communication system developed by GS1 U.S. after reviewing its food safety practices over the winter.

As for crop bunching, Patricio said he expects to see it in August with a late start to harvesting after July 4 from the weather.

Jerry Munson, manager of the California Melon Research Board, Dinuba, said growers are also managing water shortages by being more efficient with water use, especially with cantaloupes, which don’t require as much water for production as other summer commodities.

“Growers are able to produce as many cantaloupes as needed,” Munson said.

Berj Moosekian, who handles sales for V.H. Azhderian and Co. Inc., Los Banos, Calif., said for the previous two seasons the company has coped with scarce water supplies by fallowing land that would otherwise be in production.

Though it’s not feasible to put more land into production for this summer’s melon season, Moosekian said if water allocations are up to 40% again next year, the company may prep more acres for melon production.



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