Florida Leads the Nation in Watermelon Production
by TERESA SCHIFFER
Sponsored by Farm Credit of Central Florida
Watermelons are synonymous with summer. What else is strongly associated with summertime? Why, the Sunshine State, of course! So it should come as no surprise that Florida is the top producer of watermelons in the U.S.
A Juicy Boost for Florida’s Economy
Watermelon production is an integral component of Florida’s agricultural economy. Approximately 25 percent of all the watermelons that are grown in the United States are cultivated right here in Florida. We claim 24.7 percent of the country’s watermelon acreage and 29.6 percent of the nation’s watermelon crop total value.
What that means for Florida is that in 2019, watermelons comprised 13.2 percent of all vegetable crops produced in Florida, making the cucurbit melon the state’s third-ranking vegetable in terms of crop value. This translates to $161.54 million in cash receipts for watermelon production in 2019.
As of 2017, there were 431 farms in Florida producing watermelons. That’s about nine percent of Florida’s total vegetable-producing acreage. In 2020, 26,300 acres of watermelons were planted in Florida, and 25,200 acres were subsequently harvested. The average yield per acre was 38,080 pounds, which comes out to a total production of 958.65 million pounds produced of the popular melons in Florida.
The price per pound for watermelons has ranged over the last decade from a low of $0.144 per pound in 2016 to a high of $0.223 per pound in 2013. In 2020, the average price per pound that watermelon growers received was $0.164.
The production cost for watermelon cultivation is about $5,559 per acre in North Florida. This factors in fixed overhead costs, variable operating costs, and expenses associated with harvesting and marketing. According to UF/IFAS, growers generally have net returns ranging from $1,350 to $8,209 per acre.
Watermelons can be harvested in Florida at any time of the year, but from December through April we are the only U.S. state supplying watermelons to the rest of the country. Most of our watermelons are harvested from May to July though. Growers in South Florida benefit the most from early sales when prices are at a premium, but also must contend with higher overall production costs.