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Epic Produce Sales anticipates strong watermelon supplies

PHOENIX, AZ — The Mexican watermelon deal for Epic Produce Sales LLC will be finished by Memorial Day. But neither the firm nor consumers need to worry about a shortage of watermelons before or after that point, according to Epic’s watermelon specialists Art Miller, Pato Rodriguez and Jimmy Neal.

The three sat in the firm’s comfortable new office in the south side of Phoenix to discuss Epic’s involvement in the watermelon industry.

Miller, who owns the firm, said in late March that, based on demand, the market plummeted from about 40 cents a pound going into the Easter holiday and, four days later, fell to the mid-20s.

Mexico is in full gear and Florida watermelons were expected to be in the market in mid-April. “We’ll have domestic acreage on the West Coast — from Brawley, CA — in the first week of May. Arizona production will begin in the end of May,” Neal noted.

Thus, the closing of good North American market opportunities for Mexico before June.

Rodriguez noted that watermelon quality has been good. In Mexican watermelon fields, “this year since early January, the weather has been better than normal.” He expected a fast increase in Mexican volume in April. “We had an early Easter and have a late Memorial Day. So from April 15 to May 15 I see a lot of production and no holiday to clean things up in April.”

Epic Produce primarily sources its Mexican watermelons from Nogales distributors. Epic adds value to that fruit through its diverse customer base throughout North America. The firm has the customer diversity to move a quality or size that the distributors might otherwise have difficulty in moving.

“Whether it’s a 25- or an 80-count, we have an outlet somewhere,” Neal noted. “We work both with advance pricing and day-to-day sales. We have outlets of any description.”

Epic’s service helps moderate the structure of retail ads being planned weeks in advance and the volatility of the watermelon market, Miller said.

Epic exports watermelons and other produce to Canada and sometimes even to Mexico. The firm has a fast-growing export program for a variety of fresh items.

Miller has sold watermelons for 15 years, Neal has been in the business for 20 and Rodriguez for almost as long as his colleagues’ combined experience. “With all of our experience when a market is in the toilet, you go searching,” Miller said. “You figure out who is a good guy and who is not. You work with the good guys. The people who take care of their customers and the shippers will continue to be around.”