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Nogales deal evolves, watermelon volume approaches tomatoes

NOGALES, AZ — Nogales produce distributors are seeing clear changes in Mexican product mix and even shipping seasons.

Just a couple of years ago, on the list of top 10 commodities imported into Nogales, watermelons were listed amid that pack. When new statistics come out this fall, watermelon volume received in Nogales will be second only to tomatoes. Or, the big melons may surpass tomatoes in Nogales.

“We’re a tomato town, and still, we have one company that is already receiving 35 loads of watermelons a day,” said Lance Jungmeyer in an Oct. 5 interview. “There is a chance that watermelons will overtake tomatoes, and that would be a crazy development for Nogales!”

Jungmeyer is the president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, which is headquartered in Nogales.

The FPAA president said that Mexico has the mix of elevations and climates to enable the fresh produce industry to expand its harvest periods.

The deal now has two peaks, Jungmeyer said. The first peak, largely from Sinaloa, is from January through March and the second, largely from Sonora, is from mid-April through June.

“We used to have one ‘hump’ in February, March and April. The second peak was not there. Now we have a two-hump camel,” he said.

Watermelon, squash, peppers and other winter vegetables make up the second hump, he added.

Jungmeyer said that Caborca, a northern Sonora shipping area, began shipping cucumbers three weeks earlier than normal, adding to the Nogales deal.

Generally, the Nogales season “starts earlier and runs later. In July Nogales trails off because there is so much domestic production” and the Mexicans have a difficult time competing on transportation costs, Jungmeyer said. “But, the front of the season has changed and that dynamic, with farmers in California expanding in Mexico, will continue to change.”