Increase in North Florida Watermelon Acres Next Year? Not So Fast

Web AdminFlorida, Watermelon

By Clint Thompson

A productive and prosperous watermelon season in North Florida last spring does not guarantee increased acres next year.

North Florida Watermelon Acres

Bob Hochmuth, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Regional Specialized Extension agent in Live Oak, Florida, explains why one of the most successful seasons in recent memory will not necessarily lead to more watermelon acres in 2024.

“If we were having this conversation 30 years ago when the grower had a lot more of an independent decision on that, that’s when we used to have these wild swings of large acreage after a really good year. However, today with the market, the brokers, the shippers, it’s hard for you and I to say we had 100 acres last year and next year I’m going to put 200 acres in. That’s unless the broker, buyer and shipper are willing to say, ‘I can handle another 100 acres.’ The grower does not independently make that decision on their own like it used to be. Now it’s more of an agreed-upon decision and the buyer and shipper have to be involved in that,” Hochmuth said.

Hochmuth said there is only so much supply that an individual buyer is going to be able to move.

“They’re not going to want you and I to double our acres, because they’re not going to be able to move them. I think that (fact) helps temper that enthusiasm next year to put in more acreage. Will there be some increased acreage? It’s hard to argue against that. It’s also hard to argue against it, because the commodity prices of a lot of other things don’t give growers many opportunities. They tend to want to push as much as they can on the watermelon acreage. It’s just tempered by the way the system of marketing is in place today,” Hochmuth said.

North Florida growers capitalized on a late start by Georgia and lack of supply to conduct multiple harvests across their fields this past season.

Hochmuth said about 7,500 acres are produced in the Suwanee Valley.