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Prices High for July 4th Melons
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Watermelon growers are licking their lips over the high prices melons are selling for during the busiest consumer week of the season. Unfortunately, a shortage of seeds for planting reduced acreage and has decreased harvest supplies.
Dr. David Nagel, extension horticulturist at Mississippi State University, said watermelon acreage is down from 9,600 acres in 1994 to about 8,500 this year statewide.
"Watermelon fruit blotch was such a problem last year that seed companies were reluctant to provide seed they couldn't guarantee this year," Nagel said. "Growers have had to try new varieties due to the shortage of the old ones. But this year still has been much better than last year."
Nagel said acreage has been down in Georgia and Alabama as well. A new test for watermelon fruit blotch in seed should help growers find ample seed next year.
Pam Cannon, manager of Growers Produce Shed in Taylorsville, said last year's losses and the shortage of seed this year have contributed to 20 to 30 percent higher prices.
"The quality of the melons is better this year without the blotch, and the size is the same or smaller," Cannon said.
Wayne County agent Alan McReynolds said a four-week drought that ended on June 25 reduced this year's yields.
"Four weeks ago we had plenty of melons on the vines, but only about a third of those developed to marketable melons," McReynolds said. "About 95 percent of the crop has gone to market and sold like hot cakes. The recent rains may help the rest of the crop fill out."
Smith County agent Charles Waldrup said cooler weather slowed maturity and delayed harvest five or six days.
"Growers have been harvesting a great deal in the last week. When July Fourth is approaching, harvest time is critical," Waldrup said. "Our growers are harvesting right on time this year."
Nagel said most South Mississippi growers are slightly ahead of their harvest schedule while North Mississippi growers are on time.