A promising season for U.S. watermelons
U.S. watermelon supply is looking stronger this season with a 7.3 % year-on-year increase in volume reaching 2.3 billion pounds as of June 11.
U.S. production usually goes from April to September with its peak between July and August.
With nearly 400 varieties of watermelon available, the leading segment for the past 30 years has been seedless.
“There are choices for everyone and it really depends on consumer preference. Mini watermelons are becoming very popular because they can work for a small family or even one person, and they fit easily in a small refrigerator. A fresh cut is another option, but it is a bit more expensive because of all the labor involved," Mark Arney, executive director of the National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB) tells FreshFruitPortal.com.
Arney suggests that watermelons are a budget-friendly option for consumers this summer. Several surveys done by the NWPB in the last few years suggest that per serving, watermelon has the lowest cost among any product in the fresh produce segment.
“With inflation as high as it is, watermelons are really a good deal,” says Arney.
Late start for California
Official figures show that up to June 11, there were no significant watermelon volumes reported out of California. On the same date last year, the state already recorded more than 12.5 million tons.
“Rain in California after years of drought has been very beneficial to all crops, including watermelons. However, after they got the moisture, temperatures were below normal, and watermelons need a heat index, with warmer, sunny days for them to grow, so the cold slowed down the harvest considerably,” Arney says.
Last week, Arney spoke with major California producers who told him that this time of the year they would usually be shipping a truckload of watermelons a day from California and Arizona.
“The season has to kick start soon because it is creating a supply chain issue because the demand is there so other areas are trying to fill that void. It will get better, but for now, California producers are really missing out on all that demand,” says Arney.
Florida is showing increased volumes compared to last year and the last five-year average reaching 935 million pounds from mid-April to June 11.
Mexico remains the biggest exporter of watermelons to the U.S., with a 3% year-on-year increase up to June 11, reaching a total of 967.8 million pounds this year.
“Imports over the years have increased. From a revenue standpoint, they represent about 45% of our revenue,” said Arney.
Not only have imports allowed the market to have a year-round supply of watermelons, but they also complement volumes whenever production is low or late out of a U.S. state.