By Clint Thompson
The watermelon prices that were good, maybe, 10 years ago are not so much in the current economic climate. Branford Florida watermelon producer Laura Land estimated that current prices are approximately 18 to 20 cents per pound for 45-count seedless; roughly $126 per bin.
However, the same input expenses that cost Southeast vegetable producers all spring are costing watermelon farmers. A pallet shortage has resulted in prices farmers have never had to pay as much for. According to the U.S. Energy Information Association, diesel prices have surged to $3.27 per gallon. That’s an increase of 87 cents from a year ago.
“In previous years you would say that’s an excellent price but with as much expenses as we all have, I’d say it’s just average price right now,” Land said. “These pallet (prices) are ridiculous to be honest. We’ve doubled our prices on the pallets, bin prices. All of the binning itself has cost us a good deal more money than previous years. I’d say probably $10 or $12 a bin box. For every bin that you pack it’s $10 or $12 more money. That’s $600 a load, basically. It’s at least $500 more a load in actual cardboard and binning expenses.
“Fuel prices are back up and freight prices are back up. Even if you make a good sale, sometimes you’re giving it back on the freight.”
Land estimates those prices to hold steady, even as South Georgia watermelons start to hit the open market.
“Depending on Georgia’s volume, I feel like that through the holiday, that may increase a little bit. At least it’ll stay a strong 18. It’s a bit of a weak 18 right now,” Land said.