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SunFed coming into peak season with melons from Mexico

by Rand Green | May 13, 2010
Cool weather in the growing region delayed the start of the harvest for Mexican-grown spring cantaloupes and honeydews from SunFed in Nogales, AZ, according to Alan Voll, vice president of sales and marketing. The harvest, which was originally scheduled to start around April 20, did not get underway until about May 1, but it was going strong and still building when The Produce News talked with Mr. Voll May 11.

"We started about a week-and-a-half ago," he said. "Currently, we've got excellent supplies. I would say that we will actually go into our peak volume a week from today, and we should run until about the first week of June" with fairly steady volume on both cantaloupes and honeydews. Beyond that, a late-breaking honeydew field will enable SunFed to continue shipping honeydews into mid-June.

On cantaloupes, "currently we are crossing about five to six loads a day," and that should increase to around eight to 10 loads a day "by next week." The company was crossing a similar volume of honeydews, he said.

"Growing conditions down [in Mexico] have been ideal, and … we are currently crossing some of the best-eating fruit that we have seen in the last couple of seasons," Mr. Voll said.

To assure that its melons meet high standards for flavor and sweetness, SunFed has "a guaranteed sugar and flavor program called Flavor Rich" that is independently third-party audited and certified, he said.

SunFed also participates in the HarvestMark program along with several other food-safety initiatives, Mr. Voll said. In addition to its PrimusLabs and Good Agricultural Practices programs, SunFed is "part of the HarvestMark program, which gives us traceability back to the packing facility."

The assurance offered by those programs is helping to "re-establish the comfort level that people used to have for many, many years" with Mexican produce, he said.

The eating quality of the melons is also exceptional, Mr. Voll said. Seed companies "have provided us" with varieties of melons that allow SunFed to "supply the industry with unbelievable quality. We've got cantaloupes that are Brixing anywhere from 12 to 14 on sugar, which is literally unheard of in the import program." Also, "we are getting honeydews right now that are crossing the border daily with sugar levels in the 12 to 14 range and just very, very good eating quality."

The melons are packed in the "SunFed" label.

"So far, we have received an overwhelming response" from customers because of the flavor and sweetness of the melons on arrival, he said.

The company's Mexican melons are grown in the Hermosillo and Caborca areas in the state of Sonora. Although the Mexican season will overlap with the start of the early desert melons from Arizona and California, "there looks to be a very good window for both cantaloupes and honeydews [from Mexico] for the next few weeks," he said.