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Big Chuy is in watermelon business year-round, other products seasonally

NOGALES, AZ — Big Chuy Distributors & Sons Inc., here, is in the watermelon business 12 months a year with production from several areas.

“Right now, we are coming out of Hermosillo and Guaymas” in the Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa, said Jesus (Chuy) Lopez Jr., the company’s president, in an interview with The Produce News Nov. 10. Around mid-December, production will shift south to the state of Jalisco, and run there for about three months. “Then we will start pack up in Guaymas and Hermosillo in the spring deal,” which will continue into July.

Jesus (Chuy) Lopez Jr., Big Chuy president.

For the summer, the company has a California deal that runs from June through September. “Then we start back here in October,” he said.

The program consists principally of regular seedless melons. “We have some mini-watermelons also,” Mr. Lopez said. There also are a few seeded melons, but each year there is less volume of those.

In addition to the watermelons, “we will have some hard squash, cucumbers and soft squash,” primarily Italian, he said. In the hard squash, “we’ve got the Acorn, Spaghetti, butternut, Kabocha, Buttercup and Banana. Those all go from October all the way through April or May.” Those programs all are about the same as last year, he said.

In the winter watermelon deal as a whole, “I think acreage is down a little bit, and I think it may help us a little bit on pricing,” he said. However, for Big Chuy, “we have projected the same volume, so no changes for this year.”

He is hopeful that the watermelon market in 2012 will be better than 2011, which was a difficult year for watermelons, particularly for the spring deal. “We just had a little overproduction from Mexico last year, I think in general,” he said. In addition, producing areas in Texas and Florida came in at the same time. Perfect weather in some places and less-than-perfect weather in other places caused a lot of volume to come on all at once for the spring deal.

At Big Chuy, everything is pretty much the same as last year, with the same commodities and the same staff coming back, Mr. Lopez said. “We are just trying to get back into the full swing of things and get the season off to a good start. We try to do, first of all, a good job on quality and customer service” and to excel in those values as a company, giving customers what they want and the service they demand and need.