With the summer melon seasondrawing to a close in California’s Central Valley, the bulk of the fall melon cropwill be harvested from the desert regions of California and Arizona. Weather in thesouthern desert areas of California and Arizona has been relatively favorable andmelon yield and quality is expected to be at least average this fall.

Arizona is the topmelon producer during the fall, harvesting nearly two-thirds of the melon area.Despite shipment volume averaging above that of a year earlier, summer wholesaleprices for melons averaged 4 percent above a year ago.

Summer cantaloupe supplieswere slow to build (July shipments were down 16 percent from a year earlier)because of cooler than normal temperatures across most of the San Joaquin Valley, broken by a warm spell in September.

Crop growth in June and July wasparticularly slow as unusually cool weather led to a 16 percent decline in shipmentsduring July.

By August and September, cantaloupe volume was up about 20 percentfrom a year earlier, with prices averaging 16 percent lower. In mid-Octobershipping-point prices for cantaloupe (down 40 percent) and honeydew (down 20percent) were each running well below the highs of a year earlier.

The volume of fresh-vegetable exports (excluding potatoes and melons) increased 3 percent from a year earlier during the first eight months of (January-August) of 2010. Given higher prices, the value of those exports rose 11 percent to $1.3 billion, with the value of exports to each of the top five markets increasing:

• Canada was up 8 percent from a year earlier led by head lettuce and bulb onions;

• Mexico was up 34 percent led by tomatoes and bulb onions;

• Japan, up 38 percent led by broccoli and asparagus;

• Taiwan, up 21 percent led by broccoli and head lettuce; and

• United Kingdom, up 20 percent led by sweet potatoes and sweet corn.

Together, Canada and Japan accounted for 84 percent of U.S. fresh-market vegetable export volume during the first eight months of 2010 — an increase in concentration among the top two markets from 77 percent a decade earlier.

The Mexican retaliatory tariff (in the cross-border trucking dispute) affecting crops such as onions (10 percent tariff applied to fresh onions, 20 percent on peeled onions) has reportedly held volume below what it might have been.

So far in 2010, with the notable exception of tomatoes and leaf lettuce (which were beset by weather-related production issues), export volume is higher for most commodities, including bulb onions, head lettuce, broccoli, and celery.

phollis@farmpress.com