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Al Harrison Co. looks for market to improve after early supplies clear out

Despite a slow start to the season due to a “terrible” market and bad weather in the Northeast, Brent Harrison of Al Harrison Co. Distributors in Nogales, AZ, thinks that as spring oversupplies dwindle and weather improves, the market will achieve at least “a happy medium.”

He said May 18, “The markets have been terrible. It’s a combination of too much volume and weather not being the best. Cooler weather, lots of rain, flooding — things like that do affect melon sales. I feel that this watermelon program really will not get off the ground until June. There’s just too much product coming out of Mexico, Texas and Florida. I know there are aggressive ad promotions that were written for the Memorial Day holiday, and I think that is very beneficial to our industry. But in our opinion, there’s a little too much inventory and too much product to get through in the next week. Saying that, I think you’ll see some distributors clean up earlier than normal, and that’s just due to market conditions.”

Once the volume of Mexican melons begins to diminish, Mr. Harrison expects to see fewer melons overall from California and Arizona due to some farmers in those states chasing high cotton and wheat prices this year instead of planting melons.

“Once you finish up the Mexican program, I believe there’s less acreage in Arizona and California. That’s due to a lot of people planting cotton and wheat, which has been at all-time high pricing. So I think we have a great shot at making a better market here for the month of June,” Mr. Harrison said. “Weather is going to improve — good weather means good sales, we know that. June and July are great months to promote watermelons — it’s hot, it’s summer, people associate watermelons with the summertime and we produce a very good-quality melon. We just hope that marketwise we can maintain profits for our growers and maintain a good price for our chainstores to retail them. There’s a nice happy medium there, and we want to achieve that.”

Harrison was cleaning up its Mexican deal near the end of May and planned to begin production from its Yuma, AZ, farms the first week of June and continue into July. Central Arizona production will begin in late June and run through July.

With labor and logistics top-of-mind as concerns for most growers, Harrison has found a way through the muddle and may have solved the riddle. “We are using a new concept, AgriPro, a harvester-packer that does machine pack for Al Harrison Co.,” Mr. Harrison said. “This gives us a consistent pack year-in, year-out. This crew travels our domestic program and does the cutting, harvesting, packing and shipping. They do it consistently, and they know what our needs are for our customers. Instead of having multiple growers pack — and every grower packs a little differently or has a little different idea on their quality — we’re taking control of that.”