Watermelon season heating up
Though prices were high in early April, seasonally increasing supplies of watermelon are on tap through the summer months.
Prices on April 8 for Mexican crossings of seedless watermelons passing through south Texas were 32-36 cents per pound, up from 22-30 cents per pound the same time a year ago.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that combined import and domestic watermelon imports for the week ending March 30 were 13% below the same week a year ago.
Seedless watermelon availability in the U.S. peaks in June, according to 2017 statistics from the USDA. That year, June accounted for 28% of U.S. annual seedless watermelon volume, followed by July (25%), August (22%) and May (16%).
By state, Georgia was the leading supplier of domestically grown seedless watermelon in 2017, accounting for 22% of total volume.
Other leading suppliers, in order of 2017 importance:
- Florida, 18%;
- California, 12%;
- Texas, 12%;
- Indiana, 12%;
- Missouri, 5%;
- North Carolina, 4%;
- Delaware, 3%; and
- South Carolina, 3%.
Imported watermelon supplies are shipped to the U.S. every month, but are mainly concentrated in a few months, according to USDA trade statistics. Representing about one third the volume of annual domestic shipments, import volume of watermelons peaks in April (36% of annual imported volume), followed by May (21%), March (12%), October (11%) and February (7%).
Mexico accounts for the vast majority of imported seedless watermelons, representing 79% of total annual imports in 2017. Other important suppliers to the U.S. market are Guatemala (12%) and Honduras (7%).
Seasonally increasing supplies should boost watermelon volume through the spring and summer and into October, marketers said.
Crop conditions look good, said Austin Mackey, sale representative with Stella Farms LLC, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Mexican crossings through south Texas were expected to go into early May, followed by shipments from south Florida near Immokalee and then moving north through other growing districts.
“We’re always kind of looking in the crystal ball future to get promotions (set up),” though high prices for the past several weeks have limited the chance for retail ads, he said.
Thorsten Rhode, senior director of marketing at Pacific Trellis Fruit/Dulcinea, Reedley, Calif., said the company’s PureHeart mini seedless watermelons will be transitioning from Mexico into Arizona by late April and early May, followed by production in California’s Central Valley.
While the company’s output is mainly on the West Coast, the company also grows its melons in Texas, Colorado, Florida and North Carolina.
“This is obviously in line with supporting locally grown initiatives from some of the retailers that we’re working with,” he said.
The diverse production areas can also serve to lower transportation costs to some markets, he said.
The PureHeart mini seedless watermelon is a proprietary variety from Syngenta, as is the company’s Tuscan cantaloupe. The company also is offering the PureHeart variety in an organic program.
“We have a very reliable, consistent eating experience and reliable quality,” he said.
The company also has a full-sized seedless watermelon called Sugar Daddy, also offered in organic as well as conventional.
“As much as possible, we’re trying to talk out our main partners in the fall of last year and set up programs and make sure that we have the volume they need during peak season,” he said.
That allows the opportunity to build in promotional volume when needed, he said.
The company’s acreage is up this year, he said, but declined to reveal how many total acres the firm farms.