By Clint Thompson
Watermelon prices remain high for farmers in the Southeast. Unfortunately, there’s not enough crop ready for producers to take advantage, according to Bill Brim, co-owner of Lewis Taylor Farms in Tifton, Georgia.
“Prices are still good. They’re around $155 to $160 a bin. There’s not many melons out there that’s ready right now. It’s unfortunate,” said Brim, who estimates individual watermelons are selling for an average of 24 cents per pound.
He also believes the rainy weather has played a role in watermelons not maturing as quickly as they would in previous years.
“Maybe too much water right now and they’re just not ripening as fast. We’ve got all of these showers in the afternoon, probably part due to that,” said Brim, who had to pause harvesting his own watermelon crop over the weekend. “We had some stuff that was planted later, too than what we would normally plant; because the plants weren’t ready or the fields weren’t ready. It could be anything. Fumigants hadn’t been out of the soil long enough.
“It’s quite a bit of difference from last year. Last year we were probably through by the (July) 4th. We won’t be through for three weeks after the 4th (this year),” Brim said.
This is typically a busy week for producers leading up to the July 4th Holiday on Saturday. Demand is normally very high this week.
Drop in Georgia Acreage
According to Samantha Kilgore, executive director of the Georgia Watermelon Association, acreage is projected to decrease this year to 19,000 acres. It would mark a significant drop from previous years’ harvests. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, from 2016-2018, Georgia averaged a harvest of just more than 23,000 acres.
Wet Planting Weather
According to Andre da Silva, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension vegetable specialist, wet weather in February and early March could have delayed farmers’ planting window. If growers had to wait to plant their crop, it could have also impacted when their crop would be ready for harvest.
He said that watermelon planting season in Georgia starts as early as March 1, but the bulk of farmers start March 15 and continue to the end of April. The watermelon market in Georgia begins in early June and usually concludes a week after July 4.