Slowly improving demand will trump good availability in the U.S. fresh vegetable market this summer and prices should be higher than in 2009, according to the USDA’s latest Vegetable & Melons Outlook Report.

Assuming no disruptions from tropical weather, shipping-point prices for summer fresh-market vegetables are expected to average about one-tenth above a year earlier, according to the report. Despite increased area, average retail prices for melons trended lower through July, but were expected to rise by late August as watermelon supplies tighten.

Assuming yields below last year’s record high and a 1 percent increase in area harvested, projected summer storage onion production for fresh market (excluding processing onions) will likely be down from the 46.5 million hundredweight (cwt) of 2009. This crop will transition from the summer non-storage onion crop, which is expected to total 9.6 million cwt — down less than 1 percent from a year earlier. Following a spring and summer featuring very strong prices, fresh dry-bulb onion prices have slowly begun to weaken seasonally as harvest of the storage crop begins.

This summer — mostly July through September — area for harvest of the three leading melon crops was estimated to be 89,100 acres — 2 percent below a year earlier. With the exception of cantaloupes (up 1 percent), area is expected to be lower, with watermelon acreage expected to decline 3 percent from a year earlier. With lower yields and reduced market volume for all melons, prices have moved above a year earlier, with July wholesale prices for all melons averaging 20 percent higher.