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Pandemic strangles strong cantaloupe season

Line graph of the change in sales volume of cantaloupes in pounds from February to April 2020

Imported cantaloupes saw strong volumes and a rising market until a mid-March crash caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prices seem to have stabilized my mid-April as cantaloupes transition from imports to domestic supplies in the next month.

From the end of February through the beginning of March, volume increased substantially, compared to the previous two years. But the mid-March pandemic response across the country caused volumes to drop significantly, said Raúl López, an agronomist at Agtools.

Blue Book has teamed with Agtools Inc., the data analytic service for the produce industry, to look at a handful of crops and how they’re adjusting in the market during the pandemic.

The majority of the volume came from three regions: Guatemala – 63 percent, Honduras – 26 percent and Costa Rica – 10 percent. Guatemala saw the largest decline in volume beginning the second week of March, while both Honduras and Costa Rica remained relatively stable.

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The first part of 2020, F.O.B. prices were slightly lower than 2019 going into March but experienced a marked increase in mid-March, to a level considerably higher than 2019, Lopez said. My mid-April, the market appears to have stabilized with prices substantially lower than 2019.

Los Angeles Terminal market showed 2020 pricing very similar to 2019 at the end of February and slightly higher going into March, then stabilizing, Lopez said.

Afterwards a noticeable increase is experienced through the middle of March and continued to be higher than the previous two years until the end of the month. A sharp drop at the beginning of April took prices to levels lower than on both previous years. In April prices have remained stable through the middle of the month.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services