California’s 2020 cantaloupe volume should be similar to last year’s 16 million 40-pound cartons, said JD Allen, manager of the Dinuba-based California Melon Research Board.
Honeydew volume should mirror 2019’s 7.6 million 30-pound cartons.
California growers are expected to ship about 529 million pounds of watermelons in 2020, up from 450 million pounds last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We think we’ve had weather conducive for an early start,” he said the third week of May.
He expected cantaloupes and the company’s proprietary Orangedew melons to get underway by June 25, with honeydews starting by July 1.
It was too early to offer an accurate prediction of size and quality, but he seemed optimistic.
“Compared to last year, we’ve had outstanding weather for good production and quality,” he said.
Industrywide, cantaloupe volume exceeds honeydews, but Turlock Fruit Co. grows more honeydews.
“It’s a specialty we developed in the industry,” Smith said.
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“We like to think that we stand out in the honeydew world for having high maturity, edibility and a really good product.”
Los Angeles-based Pacific Trellis Fruit, which markets the Dulcinea brand, will offer its organic and conventional Pure Heart mini watermelons, conventional and some organic Tuscan-style cantaloupes and conventional Sunny Gold yellow seedless watermelons, said John Leichter, general manager.
The Sunny Gold melon has a “unique and striking” bright-yellow interior flesh.
“It really lends itself well to cut fruit applications,” Leichter said. “There’s been good interest and good sales for the customers who have gotten on board with them.”
Pacific Trellis also will offer its Sugar Daddy full-size seedless watermelon this season.
Growing weather has been good so far, he said, “not too hot or too cold.”
Westside Produce Inc., Firebaugh, Calif., started shipping cantaloupes and honeydews from Arizona in mid-May and should have consistent supplies through October, said Garrett Patricio, chief operating officer.
Weather has been “fine,” recently, he said, but it was cooler and wetter through the late winter and early spring.
“We started smaller and slower than normal as a result of the weather, but expect to get back to normal soon,” he said in late May.
Cantaloupe and honeydew volume will be similar to past years, although the company has changed its mix of varieties and sizes based on customer requests, Patricio said.
Couture Farms, Huron, Calif., which specializes in mixed melons and honeydews, has reduced its acreage of specialty melons and decided not to offer honeydews this year because of uncertainties in the marketplace during the planting season, said partner Steve Couture.
Industrywide, he expects cantaloupes to account for 70% of the three categories, honeydews 25% and specialty melons 5%.
Watermelons continue to be a popular item, and he expected an especially big push for the Fourth of July and Labor Day.
The company will have cantaloupes and honeydews through October and maybe into November, he said.
Watermelons should finish by early October.
He expected “very good quality” thanks to ideal growing conditions.
Turlock Fruit Co., where three generations are actively involved in management, is a bit different in the cantaloupe world because the company still ships the traditional Western-shipper type cantaloupe, which has the full color and aroma of a full-slip melon, Smith said.
When a full-slip melon is ready for harvest, it is pulled off the vine, unlike the widely used harper variety, which must be cut from the vine.
The newer varieties have the shelf life but not the flavor component of the Western shipper cantaloupes, he said.
Del Mar Farms also offers the extended shelf life cantaloupes as well as the long shelf life varieties, Wright said.
“Different customers have different needs, and we want to make sure that we fulfill those needs,” Wright said.