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Crown Jewels expects late start but good melon crops

FRESNO, CA — With about 3,000 acres planted for its West Side melon deal from Perez Packing Inc. in Firebaugh, CA, Crown Jewels Produce Co., here, expects to ship a full crop of about 3 million cartons of cantaloupe and about 500,000 cartons of honeydew melons this year under the “King Crow” label that has been around since about 1948.

The melons are all being grown on the west side of California’s San Joaquin Valley. “We are looking at about 3,000 acres of cantaloupes,” which is “almost identical to last year,” said Atomic Torosian, a managing partner with the company.

The harvest was expected to start later than usual this year, according to Mr. Torosian. “We don’t expect to start anything until around the 8th of July,” he told The Produce News May 31, adding that the start date could actually be a day earlier than that or as late as the 11th, depending on weather. It will start with light volume. “We expect to get going with more production around the 18th of July.”

Ten to 12 days of rain during the planting period could have an effect on the supply curve as well, he explained. “I am concerned there may be a little growing gap,” or a period of lighter volume, from around the 8th to the 18th of August because “we went through that wet weather.” Then, “as we get towards the 20th of August, we will start coming back into more volume again.” The harvest should continue through about Oct. 10.

Melons are not the only crop in the San Joaquin Valley that has been affected by the unusually cool and at times wet spring weather. Many shippers of California cherries “are having a hard time filling ad commitments here the last week or so,” and in some cases, “trucks were being held for three to four days” waiting for a load, Mr. Torosian said. “I think [the industry as a whole] have lost half of their production. And the stone fruit deal can’t get going too rapidly, either. [The fruit] is just not growing. It’s too cold.”

Other items will be delayed as well. On pears and apples, “we are going to be pushed back eight to 10 days,” Mr. Torosian said.

In addition to its West Side melon deal, Crown Jewels has spring and fall production in California’s southern desert and also in Mexico.

“We have been shipping cantaloupes out of Mexico” since early May, he said. “We finished on Friday [May 27],” overlapping with the desert deal. “Crown Jewels is currently shipping cantaloupes from Holtville [CA], and we will finish up our cantaloupes out of Holtville sometime around the 21st or 22nd of June.” With the late start on the West Side, that could mean “a little gap” in supplies for Crown Jewels around the last week of June and first week of July.

There will be some melons in the market during that time, he said, but they will be “in the hands of just a few players” and will be primarily from the Phoenix area.

After Crown Jewels finishes its West Side deal with Perez in early October, the company will return to Holtville for a fall deal, “then go into the Mexican program sometime in late October or early November. The cantaloupe deal winds up … about the 18th or 19th of December in Mexico for us.”