Arnold Mack, owner of McMelon Inc. in Lake Wales, FL, has plenty of watermelons, but like all early-season growers this year, he is waiting for demand to arrive. A cool and rainy spring in the Northeast has hampered watermelon sales so far this season.
“It’s much slower than what it should be for May,” Mr. Mack told The Produce News May 18. “We’re moving melons, and more than we were earlier in the season, but nowhere near resembling normal. And it’s all because of the terrible weather in the northern states and cities. If we were getting the same weather from Maryland to Canada that we’re getting in Florida, we would not have enough melons. But the [Northeast] warehouses are backing up with product. I was talking to a guy in Boston, and he said they were predicting rain straight through Sunday [May 22]. That just kills watermelon sales. You’re better off with it being 60 degrees and sunshine than 75 and raining. I always say you’ve never seen a woman carrying an umbrella in one arm and a watermelon in the other. She’ll be carrying potatoes or cabbage or rutabagas or something. People, when they get ready to start grilling, they’ll buy things like watermelon and sweet corn.”
The Florida season began early and will thus end a bit early, while Georgia’s crop is coming along in the normal window. That being the case, Mr. Mack expects “a little gap between Florida and Georgia” and believes that will help improve the market.
“Melons will be less available in two weeks than they are today,” Mr. Mack said. “This deal in Florida is moving at a fast pace and came on early; you put another week on this thing, and you’re going to be pretty much limited to a north Florida deal. You get a pretty good percentage of those moved, with Georgia not coming in before the 10th or 15th of June, this thing could turn around and fool everybody. I hear people giving some awfully cheap prices on watermelon ads, but it could come back to bite them if the weather gets good up north. It doesn’t matter what the price is. When the weather’s bad, they need half as many melons. When it gets good, they don’t need twice as many, they need five times as many.”
He continued, “We can’t make the sun shine in Boston or New York City, but eventually I guess it will. But I’ve been saying that for three weeks. I didn’t get too worried until the last week in April. We got serious about getting the watermelon deal moving, but there’s nothing to get serious about. It’s just the complete opposite of last year, when we couldn’t find any watermelons. Today you can buy all you want for 10-12 cents a pound. Last year that number was 20-22 cents.”