By Clint Thompson
The watermelon supply chain is currently down. As a result, prices are up. It’s a pleasant surprise for Florida growers who are currently harvesting this year’s crop, according to Gene McAvoy, University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension agent emeritus.
“(The farmers) were a little bit apprehensive that with all of this COVID-related decline in demand that there might not be a demand for the (watermelon) product. They’ve had poor weather growing conditions in Mexico, so supplies are down from that side,” McAvoy said. “Even here in Florida, we had a really hot and dry March and April which affected pollination. The fruit set is less than what we would consider to be normal.”
Other Florida produce farmers have struggled with selling this spring’s crop amid the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has shut down the country since the second week in March. The resulting shutdown led to closures of restaurants across the U.S.
But as businesses begin to open up and states begin loosening the restrictions on self-quarantining, demand for fresh fruits and vegetables is improving. The same appears to be true for watermelons.
“The supply is down a bit, kind of lining up with demand. Prices are good. They’re getting 20 cents, 19 cents per pound, which is decent for starting out the season. Sometimes it’s a little higher. But things are moving,” McAvoy said.
The bulk of Florida is still harvesting or nearing harvest of watermelons. McAvoy said farmers in the extreme South Florida area, around Immokalee, Florida, are done harvesting this year’s crop. He added that watermelon harvests are continuing in Glades County, Charlotte County, Desoto County and up into Hillsborough.
Georgia and Alabama should start picking in early-to-mid June.