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Agribiz: Early watermelon crop hits markets

POSTED: June 20, 2012 11:02 p.m.

Mother Nature is always in control. Sometimes that is a bad thing, and other times it can be a great thing.

This year, South Georgia’s watermelon crop is early due to a warm winter and spring.

Typically watermelon growers are not at the market in May, but this year is the exception. This is because growers were able to plant earlier than normal and growing conditions were favorable in Crisp County, the state’s major watermelon-growing county.

In other parts of the state like Tift and Worth counties, many growers were hit hard by hailstorms that ruined the vines. Many growers experienced 50 percent or more crop loss. If you are a grower who has a good crop, that means more money for what you bring to market.

Another aspect helping with strong prices is the gap of peak harvest between the Florida and Georgia markets has been wider than usual.

Matching that with the relatively mild weather in South Georgia that does not force the watermelons to come in all at once, flooding the markets, the price should be strong.

Although for you and me, it means higher prices at the store for this sweet summer treat.

One concern growers have expressed early in the season is there have not been the number of buyers and brokers at the large, state-run farmers markets. But in talking to my co-worker, Scott Utley in Turner County, they are there now.

The early season had everyone a little off with the timing. But with another month or more in the peak watermelon season, there should be enough time for everyone to get back on track and make this year a good year for growers and consumers alike.

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears biweekly on Thursday’s Business page and at gainesvilletimes.com


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