Rain has been hampering East Coast watermelon production. ( File Photo )

The 2018 watermelon season in Delaware, Maryland and the Eastern Shore of Virginia may see reduced volume and possible supply gaps this summer.

Speaking in early June, Kevin Evans, president of Mar-Del Watermelon Association and owner of Evans Farms LLC, Bridgeville, Del., said some watermelon fields saw 16 inches of rain in the past 50 days.

Acreage may have been up this year if the rains had not come, but rains delayed plantings and may have reduced watermelon acreage by 20%. Yields could be off by double-digit percentage as well, Evans said.

“For the watermelon industry and the vegetable industry overall, it’s probably the worst it’s been in my farming career in the last 25 years,” he said.

“We can’t catch a stretch of more than four to five days’ dry weather, and that’s making it a challenge to do any management to the crops,” Evans said.

There may be 20 to 25 watermelon growers in region, he said, and harvest should start by about July 20, perhaps about a week later than normal.

Shipments will continue to mid- to late September, he said.

“As long as demand doesn’t go down I would expect much higher prices this season,” Even said. “There’s not going to be good volume on the shore because acres aren’t going in the ground.”


2017 rewind

In 2017, size 45 red-flesh seedless watermelons marketed from Delaware, Maryland and Virginia’s Eastern Shore in 24-inch bins were first quoted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market News Service on July 20 at a price range of 19-20 cents per pound.

The lowest prices for the season in 2017 were recorded in mid-August, when prices were mostly in the range of 12-14 cents per pound.

The last week for watermelon f.o.b. prices for the region was Sept. 23, when the market was quoted at 17-18 cents per pound.


Shipment totals

In 2017, total seedless shipments from Maryland, Delaware and Virginia totaled 18.42 million cwt., with 24% marketed in July, 62% in August, 14% in September, and less than 1% in October.

Delaware accounted for 10.6 million cwt. in seedless shipments, with 26% shipped in July, 63% in August and 11% in September.

Maryland accounted for 6.65 million cwt. in seedless watermelon shipments.

Virgina’s watermelon shipments in 2017 totaled 1.2 million cwt., with 63% shipped in August and 37% in September.