On April 8, the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported on daily shipments and crossings in the United States for watermelons for the first week of April. The report broke down movement for seeded and seedless watermelon and also provided some data on imports. Units are comprised of a total of 40,000 pounds each.
This season, a total of 7,154 units were imported into the United States through ports in Arizona, Texas, Mississippi, California, Delaware and Florida.Countries exporting watermelons to the United States were Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. This figure compares to 7,555 units imported at the same time last season. Of this total, 30 units were during the first week of April. This volume represents an increase over the 16 units moved during the same time frame in 2013.
AMS reported 74 units of seeded watermelons entered the United States at Nogales, AZ, during the first week of April. Guatemala exported 94 containers of seedless watermelons during the first week of April. Volume of seedless watermelons from Honduras was 94 units, and Mexico exported 9,699 units for that same week.
Florida districts had moved 49 units of seeded watermelons by truck as of April 7, surpassing the 15 units moved from Florida at the same time during 2013. Florida also moved another 107 units of seedless watermelons, an increase over the 55 units moved at the same time in 2013.
Weather has been a factor during the 2014 domestic growing season. Matt Solana, vice president of operations/supply chain with Jackson Farming Co., said rainy conditions made it difficult for growers to get into the field and get soil prepared in North Florida and Georgia.
Jackson Farming expected production to begin in Sarasota, FL, at the beginning of May. Production in McAlpin, FL was anticipated to begin in June. Soldana said retailers could expect good volume for the July 4 holiday coming from Florida and Georgia. Watermelons are also produced in Autryville, NC, with production beginning around July 4 and running through September.
If dry, sunny days are coupled with some occasional rain showers, Soldana expects a good season in 2014.
The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center provided some historic data about the dynamics of watermelon production during 2012. “U.S. watermelon production in 2012 totaled more than 39 million hundredweight, up from 2011,” the center stated. “The value of fresh market watermelons that year was nearly $520.8 billion, also up from the previous year.”
According to AgMRC, Florida and Georgia led in domestic production followed by California and Texas.
Most watermelon is consumed fresh, and AgMRC noted that per capita consumption was 15.5 pounds in 2010. “About 85 percent of watermelons are purchased at the retail level for home consumption,” the center stated in its report. “Other processed products include roasted seeds, pickled rind and watermelon juice.”
On June 28, 2012, USDA’s Economic Research Service issued its Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook, further discussing production and consumption trends. According to ERS, the United States ranked fifth among the world’s top watermelon producers. “Over the past 10 years, watermelon was consistently the third-most-produced [commodity] by weight for the fresh market in the United States, behind onions and head lettuce,” the report stated. “Between 1990 and 2010, while the number of acres harvested contracted 3.5 percent, production rose 29 percent to a record high of 4.1 billion pounds.”
Data concerning seeded vs. seedless varieties is revealing. “In the past decade, the share of seedless watermelon of total U.S. watermelon shipments jumped from 51 percent in 2003 to 83 percent in 2011,” the report stated. “Rising demand for watermelon has been mostly due to the production of varieties that are seedless or are smaller in size combined with increased marketing of pre-cut half or quarter-melons, offering value-added convenience to consumers.”
And consumers are becoming increasingly familiar with the nutritional qualities associated with watermelon consumption. “As watermelon is 92 percent water, many people eat it to help quench their thirst,” ERS wrote. “Watermelon juice is even now available at some retailers. Lycopene, found in other produce such as tomatoes, is present in watermelon at higher concentrations than any other fruit or vegetable and is believed to reduce the risk for heart disease and some cancers.”