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Grower Alliance LLC in Nogales, AZ, which markets a wide assortment of produce commodities from Mexico, has an expanded watermelon program for the 2012-13 season. That expansion is in two areas: the addition of a winter watermelon deal out of the state of Nayarit to supplement the spring and fall programs in Sonora and an increase in mini-seedless watermelon production for the spring and fall.

The winter watermelon program in Nayarit is “a new deal for us,” said Jorge (George) Quintero Jr., sales manager and a founding partner of the company, which is now in its seventh season. “We haven’t had any melons down in that area until this season.”

It is the first time the company has had watermelons this time of year, he said Jan. 24.

103-GrowerAllilance---JorgeJorge (George) Quintero Jr.“We currently just started on a field down in Nayarit which has about 25 hectares [62 acres] of seedless watermelons,” he said. “That will bridge the gap between the [fall and spring] Sonora deals.” He expects the spring watermelon harvest in Sonora to start in late March or early April.

In Sonora, the company expects to have about 115 hectares [284 acres] of seedless watermelons for the spring deal as well as another 50 to 60 hectares [125 to 150 acres] of mini-watermelons.

Grower Alliance has been expanding its mini-watermelon program. “Last year [the 2011-12 season] we had a good-sized program,” Mr. Quintero said. “This year, it almost doubled for the fall,” he said, and he expects a similar increase for the company’s spring and summer program, as compared to the prior year. “We are looking to double upon the mini-watermelon deal that we had last spring and summer.”

The company does not have any mini-watermelons in its winter deal out of Nayarit this year, but it is “probably something we will get into next season,” he said.

However, in addition to the watermelons, “we also have about 20 to 25 hectares [50 to 62 acres] of honeydew melons in the same area.”

The production is “staggered out, so they won’t all come at the same time,” he said. Volume will be light “but consistent all the way into March-April when the Sonora deal starts.”

Customers “are loving it right now” because there are so few watermelons available in the market currently, Mr. Quintero continued. “There are hardly any,” and prices are high, “so we can help them out with being able to supply that during this time. It works for us, too, because if we are able to supply them right now, then they will help us in the spring and summer” when there are more melons in the market and prices are “a lot lower.”

Except for the increase in mini-watermelons, the Sonora spring deal for Grower Alliance is expected to be similar to last year. “That is what we are planning on right now,” he said. “But we do have the ability to increase if we need to.”

All the watermelons the company is bringing in from both growing areas are coming up under the “Grower alliance” label, Mr. Quintero said. If they are packed in cartons, the cartons will carry the “Grower Alliance” label, and if they are packed in bins, the label will be on a sticker on the product.