Watermelon market hits sweet spot, should avoid storm trouble

As the national watermelon supply moves north, prices and volume are settling into a good flow – as long as Tropical Storm Barry doesn’t cause problems.

The storm developed this week in the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to hit Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama this weekend.

However, most watermelons are moving out of southern growing areas and into ones further north, such as Missouri and the Carolinas.

Watermelon growers say the demand and volume surge leading into Independence Day is over, and lighter volumes are in line with moderate summer demand.

“It’s a good fair market, with many growers on chain contracts,” said Greg Leger, president of Leger & Son Inc., Cordele, GA. BB #:114313 “It’s mostly a 15-16 cent market (per pound in 24-inch bins).”

“I think next month we’ll see steady demand with good supplies,” he said July 11.

Leger said his company is winding down its season in Georgia but expects supplies to ramp up in Indiana and Delaware by the next week.

Nick Delgado, director of sales for Borders Melon Co. Inc., Edinburg, TX, BB #:164646 said its supplies in Missouri started about a week late, but it’s going strong now.

“I think the market will stay strong from here on out,” as many growers have planted fewer melons this year than last year due to the low prices last year.

Leger said growers are keeping an eye on the storm, which would affect prices and melon quality if rains and high winds hit this weekend.

As of July 11, that looks unlikely, said David Robidoux, owner of Weathermelon.

“I don’t think it will have much effect on the crop,” he said. “But it could change since it’s only Thursday.”

Robidoux said on the Weathermelon app, he’s projecting an 80 percent change of rain in Southern Missouri on July 15, with half an inch of rain and 10-12 mph winds. That’s not enough to damage watermelon supplies.

“The storm will affect tomato growers in Arkansas and Alabama with heavy rains,” he said.

On July 11, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service reported prices ranging from 16-20 cents per pound on seedless sizes 36-60 from Missouri; 10-15 cents from South Carolina; 14-17 cents from North Carolina; and 12-18 cents from Texas. In late June, leading up to the July 4 holiday, prices were mostly 10-12 cents per pound from most growing areas.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services