Despite an unseasonably cool and wet spring, California’s melon grower-shippers aren’t expecting major delays to the start of the season.
Though fruit will likely be smaller because of cooler weather, grower-shippers said the season may start a few days later in early July but no gaps or supply shortages are anticipated.
Jerry Munson, manager of the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, Dinuba, said last season produced about 20 million cartons of cantaloupes and honeydews from the state and this season is looking to be on track to match that.
“It’s been steady,” Munson said.
One change that continues in the melon industry, Munson said, is the consolidation of grower-shippers, with fewer companies staying in the deal each year. However, the industry has steadily produced at the 20 million carton level for several years.
With the peak California season running from July to early October, Berj Moosekian, general manager for V.H. Azhderian and Co. Inc., Los Banos, Calif., said the company expects to start shipping cantaloupes — it’s largest melon commodity — shortly after July 4.
“I’m not so sure how it’s going to pan out,” Moosekian said about the impact on the crop of the weather. “We want to see good sizing, which with really cool temperatures doesn’t happen early.”
The continued new alliance between Fresno, Calif.-based Crown Jewels Marketing & Distribution LLC and Firebaugh, Calif.-based Perez Packing Inc. has Crown Jewels selling the cantaloupe and honeydew programs for Perez. The companies have resurrected the venerable King Crow label.
Atomic Torosian, managing co-partner at Crown Jewels, said the cooler weather will delay shipping until early to mid July but will be covered by a longer season expected for Crown Jewels’ Arizona desert program which will run a few weeks longer due to weather.
“We won’t miss a beat,” Torosian said.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 38,400 acres of cantaloupes were harvested and planted in California last year, with about 13,000 acres of honeydew planted and harvested in the same time period.
That continues a decade of declining acreage for both commodities, according to USDA, between 1999 and 2008. California is the nation’s top cantaloupe and honeydew producing state.
Overall, the upcoming season may turn out similar to 2009, which also started with a cooler spring but saw strong production and larger melon sizes as temperatures climbed to summer highs, growers said.
“The earliest plantings it tends to keep the on the small side,” Torosian said. “Last year we had unseasonably cool spring also and what followed were small sizes but incredible sweetness.”
Good sorting and packing will keep quality high as the California deal starts, Torosian said.
Growers said quality of summer cantaloupes and honeydew will be strong even with the cooler spring weather.
Half cartons of size 9 cantaloupes from California’s Imperial Valley and western and central Arizona in early June were $12.95-13.95, 12s were $12.45-13.45, 15s were $10.95-11.95 and18s were $8-8.50.