US watermelon consumption has steadily increased over time, while imports have also expanded to fulfill year-round consumer demand. According to the USDA, 5.1B lbs of watermelons were consumed in the US in 2019, a 4% increase from 2010 but a 5% decline from 2016, when consumption reached its highest level in over a decade. Watermelon consumption shows no signs of slowing down in the US. According to the Fresh Trends 2021 report, more than half of grocery store shoppers bought watermelon last year.
Due to the continuous increase in demand for watermelon, particularly in the summertime when watermelons are most in-demand, US watermelon imports have skyrocketed in recent years. In 2021, the imported value increased by 10% YoY and 7.5% in volume. Mexico would be the leading supplier to the US, with 78.6% of the market share, with Guatemala following with 13.4%. Although the US market relies heavily on imports for year-round demand, domestic production remains the primary source of consumption in the US.
In recent years, US watermelon production has also seen substantial growth to fulfill the summer demand. In 2021, according to the USDA Economic Research Service, watermelon production saw a significant increase reaching 1.8M mt, a 14% YoY increase. Nearly 80% of all US watermelon production is from Florida, Georgia, Texas, and California. Florida, however, surpasses all other states as the leading supplier of US watermelons, accounting for 25% of the total production. For 2020, domestic production is expected to increase further by 8% YoY, and it is precisely from South Florida that high production for this year is expected in early May.
Good supplies of seedless watermelon from South Florida, South and North Carolina are reported to have already arrived in the US wholesale markets with solid volume and excellent quality. While Mexican production usually slows down in early May, supplies from California, Arizona, and Texas start coming in early June. However, due to the warm weather suffered in the Southern states this year, seedless watermelon varieties are earlier in the market and with high volumes.
According to Arturo Muñoz, Tridge’s Engagement Manager in Mexico, the price of watermelon from Mexico to the US is decreasing due to an oversupply of Mexican watermelons at the border, while US production is already being sold in the market. “According to growers in Mexico, watermelon prices are going down because some important areas from Sonora and Sinaloa keep sending products to Nogales, Arizona, and McAllen, Texas, while domestic production is already on the market,” he explained.
The price for watermelons in the US is already showing a substantial decrease compared to Q1-22 and last year's levels. According to Tridge’s Price Chart, the price of seedless Mexican watermelon in the US has plummeted to a 64% YoY due to oversupply at the border and strong domestic production. On May 16th, the price for watermelons of Mexican origin in the Los Angeles wholesale market stood at USD 11.50/carton, while prices on the same day in the previous year stood at USD 32/carton. The early arrival of strong supplies of seedless watermelon from South Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina has considerably reduced prices.
Unlike many other crops, where the US is highly dependent on its imports, domestic production controls the watermelon market. Furthermore, watermelon is now showing strong and stable demand signals, particularly in the summertime, when consumption generally increases and local harvest is programmed to start. With all this in mind, 2022 is expected to be a particularly strong year for US watermelon growers.