RIO RICO, AZ — Late this year, Grower Alliance, LLC, will add a winter watermelon deal, which will run from December 2014 until mid-March 2015.
“It’s something not a lot of people do,” said Jorge (George) Quintero, Jr., the firm’s managing partner. “There is less consumption in the winter, but there is less production, so the markets are high.” The wintertime fruit will come from Jalisco and Colima, Mexico. “You can grow north of there, but the quality won’t be that good,” he said.
This winter deal will run into the established spring watermelon season, which Grower Alliance already has up and running very powerfully.
This spring, Grower Alliance will ship between 200-250 loads of watermelons, according to Quintero.
The Mexican watermelon spring deal for Grower Alliance began March 31 and will run into mid-June. Grower Alliance markets watermelons grown in the shipping districts of Guaymas and Hermosillo. The earliest harvests in those fields were about two weeks earlier than the norm.
Bad, cold weather in consuming markets was slowing early prices and hurting demand, Quintero noted.
“Overall, the watermelon business is good,” he said. “When it is hot for good (after cold weather in 2014) people will get a nice, fresh crunchy melon.”
Quintero sees foreign demand for watermelons growing in markets like Japan and China. Watermelons for Japan are shipped out of West Mexican seaports, as well as Long Beach, CA. Mexican honeydew are also popular in Japan, he added. There is a small volume of indirect watermelon exports to China, he added.
Grower Alliance planned to begin shipping mini-watermelons in mid-April. The minis, too, are expected to finish by mid-June. These popular, high-brix, striped mini-melons are characterized by a thin rind, with more edible flesh. The consistency of Quintero’s mini-melon variety is good, with mostly eight and nine sizes, “which is what the industry primarily asks for.”
The national demand for mini-melons is “definitely” increasing, Quintero said. He attributes this to a slow national economy and consumers not wanting to pay any more for a watermelon than is necessary. He added that this rule does not apply if people are having a picnic, requiring a large volume of melon.
Large watermelon sizes remain very popular with food processors who are cutting watermelon cubes or using a rind to make a cut fruit presentation.
Grower Alliance will also ship about 400,000 cases of honeydew this spring. These also “have quite a following and are known by the wholesale and retail market.” This honeydew season will run from mid-April until about June 1. About five percent of the honeydew crop is sold on contract to fruit processors.
Quintero, who is 33 years old, launched Grower Alliance seven years ago with his partner, 34-year-old Luis Caballero. Caballero runs Grower Alliance’s honeydew program, using the “Dolores” label.