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Hapco watermelon specialist’s perspective on upcoming domestic season

With the Memorial Day holiday quickly approaching, watermelon will soon follow. Hapco Farms is gearing up for the season, and Raquel Mello, Hapco’s watermelon specialist, took a moment to chat about the upcoming season.

 The Produce News: Domestic watermelon is getting ready to start. How is the season looking?

Mello: The season has had a delayed start due to the colder weather experienced in Florida over the winter months. Additionally, the freezing temperatures across northern Florida in March caused frost damage and growers were forced to replant their fields, which will cause a delay and a potential gap for the Memorial Day holiday. We are working closely with growers on timelines and supplementing with Mexican watermelon if necessary.

TPN: What varieties does Hapco supply?

Mello: We will have both seedless and seeded melons available this season. We carry a number of varieties but focus on the 7187 variety, as well as Joy Ride, Road Trip and Fascination that grow mainly 45-count seedless melons.

TPN: What months do you ship domestic watermelon?

Mello: We have domestic product from April through October. We are able to offer a year-round supply using offshore product from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica.

TPN: We know you work closely with the retailers on promotions. Can you tell us about that?

Mello: Acreage and plants are secured prior to season start and barring any weather-related issues provide for season-long promotional periods that allow merchandisers to plan their ads accordingly. We, as well as the National Watermelon Promotion Board, provide retailers with marketing materials, in-store demos and promotional materials to reach consumers and educate them on the commodity.

Mello has been with Hapco Farms for six years. Prior to Hapco, she was a buyer at Stop & Shop Supermarkets and has the advantage of knowing both sides of the business. She has been in the watermelon category for more than 10 years and has strong, long-term relationships with growers and retailers.