By Clint Thompson
High production costs and lack of demand have kept mini melons from taking a big bite out of the watermelon industry, believes Josh Freeman, University of Florida/IFAS Associate Professor in Horticultural Science.
“They may have been making small incremental gains, but I don’t think they did what many people thought they were going to do 15, 17, maybe 20 years ago when they were really introduced and the quality of them started to improve. I think a lot of people thought they’d make bigger gains than what they did. Frankly, they just haven’t,” Freeman said. “Their market share has remained pretty static. We tend to see more of them in the wintertime. They’ve got more retail space in the wintertime than they typically do in the summer. Most of that production is coming from Central America.
“Once we get into our main season, I think most people aren’t interested in paying pretty similar price points for a 5-pound melon versus a 15-pound melon, me included.”
High production costs specifically point to the labor required to harvest the watermelons. Since the yield is comparable to a regular seedless melon, the number of fruit is at least doubled. That means a lot more fruit must be harvested, which consumes time and manpower.
“It requires at least the same, if not more, labor force than standard melons just because they’re much more numerous. You’ve got much higher count per acre,” Freeman said.