Growers around the country expect melon production to get started by mid-May as the import deal subsides.
Brawley, Calif.-based Five Crowns Marketing plans to start shipping around May 1.
“The last couple years it’s been a little bit earlier than that,” sales and marketing director Daren Van Dyke said in late March. “We had some cooler weather that came in, so this year’s probably delayed just a few days.”
A late-season freeze caused the slowdown, but cantaloupes were spared because they were under the plastic at the time, Van Dyke said.
In addition to production in California, the company also grows watermelons and mini melons in Arizona later in the season.
Dos Palos, Calif.-based Legend Produce expects to begin shipping April 28, sales manager Barry Zwillinger said in late March. He anticipates a smooth transition from the import deal, for which the company sources melons from Guatemala and Honduras.
Offshore melons have been better this year than the previous two years in quality and flavor, with prices and demand increasing accordingly, Zwillinger said. Growing conditions and weather in Central America have been better, with disease not as much of a problem as it sometimes is.
In the last month of the offshore season, the melons have been sizing up nicely, he said.
Los Angeles-based Pacific Trellis Fruit/Dulcinea Farms plans to begin production in May on cantaloupes and yellow personal watermelons from the Yuma, Ariz., area, said general manager Josh Leichter.
In late March the company was bringing in melons from Mexico, finishing up in the Sinaloa area and getting ready for more production in Sonora.
Westley, Calif.-based Del Mar Packing begins its melon season in early July. In late March the company was getting ready to start planting.
“We got a lot of rain for the past two weeks, so I’m glad this week’s sunny,” salesman Heriberto Hernandez said in late March.
“It’s a little windy, but it’s workable to start planting, so we’re right on schedule.”
Autryville, N.C.-based Jackson Farming Co. plans to start watermelon production in Bradenton, Fla., around May 10.
“Mother Nature is always up to something, so we have faced a warm February in most of our growing areas, which was bringing the Florida crop on early at the south end, and then we have had a cold March, which has slowed down growth in South Florida,” vice president of operations and supply chain Matt Solana said in late March.
As summer progresses the company will move production to Leslie, Ga., to build volume for the Fourth of July, and the last stop of the season is the Autryville farm, which produces watermelons, athena cantaloupes and eastern honeydew melons through Labor Day.
“The Florida farm will have ample seedless and seeded watermelons for the Memorial Day event, that first build toward the summer melon season,” Solana said. “Acreage in Georgia has been increased on seedless watermelons to match the demand for the July Fourth event.
“Acreage in North Carolina on seedless has been increased by close to 20% for 2018 as July proves to be a great vacation month in the heart of summer and July is designated as North Carolina Watermelon Month,” Solana said.
Carrizo Springs, Texas-based Dixondale Farms plans to start shipping cantaloupes in May.
President Bruce Frasier said in late March that the crop was looking great.
“We only grow the high-net, high-sugar, straw-colored varieties that still look, smell and taste like a cantaloupe should,” Frasier said. “We don’t grow the extended shelf life varieties since almost all our cantaloupes go to retailers and foodservice here in the state of Texas.”
Companies across the U.S. expect the electronic logging devices mandate to be a factor in the domestic melon deal, as grower-shippers have to pay more for freight and schedule to reflect the restrictions of the newly enforceable hours-of-service requirements.
Growing segments of the melon category include high-flavor and fresh-cut, with some companies also reporting more interest in organic product.