USA: South Carolina watermelon production up 64 percent over 2013


by John S. Niblock

 

Aided by good weather, South Carolina’s 2014 watermelon crop recorded a robust gain of 64 percent over last year’s total, according to a National Watermelon Report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As production ended in early August, the state had shipped almost 81 million pounds of seeded and seedless watermelons.

 

Georgia, usually the leading state for watermelon production, was still shipping in early August and was close to the 586 million pounds to date. North Carolina, which was winding down production Aug. 12, reported a total to date of 79 million pounds; last year’s total for the Tar Heel state was close to 102 million pounds.

 

Matt Cornwell, executive director of the South Carolina Watermelon Association and a marketing specialist with the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, said the increased production “was welcomed by our growers, who had a bad year in 2013 when heavy rains during harvest held down production. This year’s harvest was back to normal.”

 

The South Carolina watermelon harvest began in early June and ended by Aug. 12, for all but two growers, who grew a second, late-harvest crop, Cornwell said. This year’s crop consisted mainly of seedless melons, roughly by a 10 to 1 margin. The Tar Heel state crop was about 85 percent seedless. Both states shipped by truck; Georgia used trucks and piggyback rail, and California used rail and trucks. The Carolinas rank in the top 10 states in the nation for producing watermelon.

 

Promotion events, usually featuring the South Carolina Watermelon Queen, included college and university football practices; a minor league baseball game; marathons and bridge runs; civic events such as food festivals; visits to farms, hospitals and schools; in-store promotions at Bi-Lo, Giant Foods, Lowe’s, Piggly Wiggly and Whole Foods, among others; and trade shows and news media interviews.

 

This year, the South Carolina Watermelon Association promoted watermelon at sporting events, with giveaways of fruit slices and signage extolling the health benefits of watermelon. The highlight of the promotions, Cornwell believes, was the Cooper River Bridge run in Charleston, SC, where the association gave away 30,000 five-ounce servings of watermelon, which Cornwell calls “nature’s sports drink.”

 

For 2015, Cornwell said, “Demand for watermelon is growing, and South Carolina has a natural advantage in that the soil and climate are good for melons. Because of our location, we are one of the first states to have watermelon on the market, and we can reach the major population centers of the East Coast and Midwest. The outlook for 2015, weather permitting, is good. Two growers experimented this year with a late-harvest crop of watermelons, and did really well, shipping into September. I expect we’ll see more growers try a second crop in 2015.”

 

Source: Produce News




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