Watermelon

Revised, December 2015
Linda Naeve, Content Specialist

Introduction

Watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) obviously gets its name because of its extremely high water content, approximately 92 percent. Besides water, it is full of nutrients; 1 cup of diced, fresh watermelon provides 21percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamin C, 18 percent of the VD for vitamin A, and significant levels of vitamin B6, lycopene, antioxidants, and amino acids. Watermelon consumption and production in the United States has been on the rise in the last few decades. U.S. annual per capita consumption of watermelon is now at approximately 14 pounds per person.  

Marketing

Watermelon are grown for the fresh market. Large-scale producers (more than 20 acres) generally use brokers who provide the marketing services to the producers.

Production

According to the USDA Economic Research Service, over 120,000 acres of watermelons were grown in the US in 2014, producing 3.2 billion pounds. This is down slightly from the previous two years. While watermelons are grown across the U.S., most production occurs in the top four states (Texas, Florida, Georgia and California), producing approximately 44 percent of all grown in the U.S. The average watermelon yield per acre in the U.S in 2014 was 31,800 pounds. In terms of production, watermelon is one of the three top crops produced in the US, along with onions and head lettuce. All but about 24 percent of domestic consumption of watermelons comes from U.S. growers; the rest comes primarily from Mexico or Central American countries.
Seedless varieties are in increasing demand, and the share of seedless watermelon in total watermelon shipments in the United States increased from 51 percent in 2003 to nearly 85 percent in 2014. Seedless varieties, typically started as transplants rather than from direct seeding, require more intensive management, with the cost differences generally visible at the retail level.

Prices

The average US farm price for watermelons in 2014 was $13.50 per hundred weight. The national seasonal average retail price for non-organic, red-fleshed, seeded type ranged between $0.31to $0.38 per pound, and $0.46 to $0.55 per pound for red-fleshed seedless.

Financials

Based on average yields per acre and average price of fresh market watermelons, producers, on average, grossed approximately $4,300 per acre in 2014; however, that varies considerably among states.

Sources and References

Nutritive Value of Foods (USDA ARS, 2002)
Watermelon Production in California (UC Vegetable Research and Information Center, 2009)
2013 Cost Estimation of Producing Seedless Watermelon in Eastern Washington. (Washington State University, 2013)
Commercial Watermelon Production. (University of Georgia Extension, rev. 2014)
Vegetables, 2014 Summary (USDA, NASS, January 2015)