Melon season is in full swing. Reports show steady markets for cantaloupes, honeydews and watermelons. For cantaloupes, quality is good and shipments are coming out of Mendota, CA, Firebaugh, CA and Maricopa, AZ. For honeydews, quality is noted a fair and shipments are coming out of the same regions of CA and AZ. For watermelons, quality is good with some light supplies still available out of Nogales, AZ but most shipments coming from Phoenix, AZ.

Melon transportation can be complicated; it’s important to understand the dynamics of shipping situations so that all parties can look to minimize costs related to quality, temperature and product damage.

4 Helpful Tips

1) Study Harvest Schedules – there are a few great resources that will tell you the movement of produce in terms of growing district/regions, varieties, quality, and truck availability. Research will help plan for fluctuations more effectively throughout the year. For a commodity by commodity breakdown of seasonal availability, the BBOS Know Your Commodity is great resource. For weather, market alerts, transitions, and temperatures, PRO*ACT’s The Source is a wealth of information. Finally, for growing districts/regions and truck supply and availability, check the USDA Specialty Crops Truck Rate Report.

2) Look for quality indicators – good quality cantaloupes are well shaped, nearly spherical and uniform in appearance. They have a smooth stem end, an absence of scars, sunburns, or surface defects. In addition, there the product will be firm with no evidence of bruising or scuffing. For honeydew, good quality will be indicated by having a nearly spherical shape and uniform appearance, an absence of scars or surface defects, and no evidence of bruising. For watermelon, good quality will be indicated by a symmetrical and uniform appearance, the surface will be waxy and bright, no absence of scars, sunburn or other surface defects, and no evidence of bruising.

3) Watch Loading Temperatures – Generally, things start to heat up in southern CA, AZ, TX, and FL in late April/early May and stays that way well into September. For cantaloupes, precooling after harvest is important to maintain quality. For honeydews, cooling soon after harvest is recommended, commonly with forced air. Watermelon should be picked at full maturity and protected from the sun to prevent sunburn. Watermelons are often picked from the field and packed into a trailer within a very short time frame. 

No matter the commodity, it’s mandatory to note the pulp temperature on pickup. Drivers should record pulp temperatures on the BOL. As per UWT’s loading guidelines, if the product pulp temperature reads higher than the requested temperature on the BOL, drivers need to address this variance immediately with the staff at the loading shed and contact UWT. And remember, if access to the loading/unloading dock and pulping is not permitted, “shipper/receiver load and count” must be noted.

4) Note Special Loading Instructions – Cantaloupes are shipped in either bulk containers or 40-pound cardboard boxes of between 9 and 23 loose cantaloupes. Honeydews are shipped in 30lb containers, with 4-6 honeydews per carton. The cartons often include partitions to protect the fruit from damage. For watermelons, various packaging options exist, but some more common options may be required by law depending on region. Typical options include cartons that can hold 35, 40, 85 or 100 pounds, made from corrugated fiberboard or plastic.

All containers should be thoroughly inspected for damage, cleanliness, and structural integrity. In addition, all melon varieties are ethylene sensitive and should not be shipped with ethylene producing products.

Make sure to always ask your transportation provider if there are any special loading instructions that you need to be aware of prior to allowing the product to be loaded into your truck. Also, the more you can document the loading process (notes on BOL, photos, etc), the better!

4 Tips to Help Deal With Melon Transportation Season was last modified: by