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Nogales watermelon shippers say timing good for Easter promotions

RIO RICO, AZ — As the Nogales vegetable deal winds down for the season, shippers who handle watermelons from south of the border are gearing up for good volume to meet Easter promotions.

Mike Smith, president of Sigma Sales Inc., based here, said the Mexican watermelon deal is "very early" for all shippers.

Smith said March 26 that Sigma had just begun shipping "and we'll increase our volume next week." Given the early and large crop, combined with an April 20 Easter that is late on the 2014 calendar, Mike-Smith-SigmaMike Smith, president of Sigma Sales Inc."Easter will be a great time to push watermelons if anyone wants to get aggressive," he said. "We will get aggressive with pricing off the bat."

The Mexican vegetable volume for Nogales-area distributors is on its seasonal decline, but "fruit is coming on for the season and we should have a good run," said Smith. "The quality is great."

Mexican growers enjoyed a mild winter "and they already have some good quality" on watermelons, he said, adding that April and May will bring strong watermelon volume for North American customers. Seedless and mini-watermelons will both be in strong supply.

Honeydew melons from Mexico are to begin about April 10, Smith said. Honeydew from northern Mexico is expected to run into early June.

Jorge Quintero Jr., managing partner at Grower Alliance LLC, another Rio Rico distributor, said his melon season will begin March 31, with fruit from Guaymas and Hermosillo.

"We hear, and it's true, that all the fields are starting a lot earlier than normal," said Quintero. "Mid-April is normal. But people have already started or they're getting ready to start, like us."

Smith and Quintero both noted that miserable winter markets have significantly hurt sales this winter.

But with spring weather destined to arrive soon, combined with the late Easter, it's a good time to promote watermelons.

Chris Ciruli, chief operating officer of Ciruli Bros. LLC in Rio Rico, also indicated March 26 that mango volume will be very strong for Easter promotions.