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Multiple regions enable Big Chuy to keep customers in watermelons year-round

Big Chuy Distributors & Sons Inc. in Nogales, AZ, is in the watermelon business 12 months out of the year. Jesus (Chuy) Lopez Jr., president of Big Chuy Distributors, said the company prides itself on being able to assure customers of constant availability of product, in addition to a strong focus on quality and service.

“Our customers can know that day to day we have watermelons for them, year-round,” he said.

The melons are packed mainly under the company’s “Chuy’s Pride” label. They consist primarily of seedless melons and some mini melons.

During the fall and spring, Big Chuy’s melons come from Hermosillo and Guaymas in the state of Sonora in northern Mexico. That program started in October and continues into December. Then production moves south to the states of Jalisco and Colima for the December-through-March period before coming back up to Sonora for the spring deal that will run from March through July.

In addition to watermelons, “we’ve got hard squash and we have started with some white corn,” Lopez said Nov. 20. “We’ll have some cucumbers here the beginning of December.”

The company’s hard squash program consists of Acorn, Spaghetti, Butternut and Kabocha. The squash are coming out of Sonora and Sinaloa and will be “a non-stop program for us” from fall through winter and into spring.

“We’ll keep going on hard squash all the way through May,” Lopez said. The company’s squash acreage for the 2013-14 season will be pretty much the same as in the past. Hard squash, he said, is “a specialty item” that is “a little more tough to move than other items.”

Although watermelons and squash are the company’s core items, “we are working to see what else we can bring in” to fill niches for customers “and keep customers happy and keep business rolling through here,” he said.

The fall watermelon deal this year out of Sonora was not a great start for the season, Lopez said. “Prices have been much lower than other years. But hey, you have to take the bad with the good, so hopefully the good is about to come in.”

Volume has been strong this year “due to the nice weather that Mexico is having,” and quality has been good, he said.

On the downside, markets have been “very harsh, extremely low, so that has been hurting the growers,” he added. “But we are keeping our hopes high,” hopeful that “thinks will pick up in the next couple of weeks and these guys can finish at least on a good note.”

The company’s winter and spring programs will both be similar to last year, with about the same acreage, he said. He was uncertain what production would be like out of central Mexico during the winter due to heavy rainfall from recent hurricanes.

“We’ll see what kind of effect that will have,” he said. For the spring deal, however, he expects a similar volume to last spring.