The crop continues to drop in Almeria, while watermelon runs the risk of dying from success
“What is happening with the Galia in Almeria is a problem. People have stopped eating it.” When talking to any seed company about the melon evolution in the province in recent years, the answer is always the same. The lack of flavour and ‘bite’ (the term used colloquially for the feeling the fruit leaves in the mouth when biting it), are the main obstacles found by producers. And although the breeders are trying to cope with this, it is obvious that they have not yet found the key. The market has virtually been lost, both with Galia and Yellow Melon. The Cantaloupe could follow in their footsteps and the Piel de Sapo is the only one that is ‘saving itself’, so to speak, since it continues to have its traditional stronghold in the westernmost area of the Poniente Ameriense. It is not just an impression, it is a reality that is confirmed by figures. According to the Department of Agriculture, this year the melon crop surface area will continue to decrease and it will drop by 8% compared to the previous year, going from 2,220 hectares to 2,042. Regarding the volume, in 2016/17, there was a production of over 93,500 tonnes, 3% less than in the preceding campaign, with a commercial value of 39.5 million euros and this year once again, we will see a new drop in the cultivated surface area.
But if this is one side of the coin, the other side in water fruits continues to be the watermelon. The important work carried out by the sector, with varieties containing quality and flavour that do not disappoint, and cutting at the correct moment, has meant a boost for this summer fruit that has been experiencing a ‘sweet’ moment during the past few campaigns. This year the surface area devoted to the crop has increased by 3% in Almeria, going from 8,940 hectares to 9,208. In the year of 2016/17, there was a production of over 558,000 tonnes, 4.8% more than in the preceding campaign, with a commercial value of over 170 million euros.
All the consumption data ratifies the dominance of watermelons over melons. According to the Food in Spain 2017 report prepared by Mercasa, in 2016 watermelon consumption in households rose to 380.7 million kg and 8.7 kg per capita, compared to the 370.3 million kg and 8.4 kg per capita reached by melons. All in all, both fruits took on 10.7% of the total spending in fresh fruit (€ 15.1 per person).
But be warned, we shouldn’t start rejoicing yet. A detailed planning schedule is urgently needed if the sector does not want to commit itself to a ‘bubble’ that could explode, destroying all the progress made over the past decade. Last year, companies saw how prices plummeted due to the increase in surface area and the overlapping of productions caused by bad setting. With such a wake-up call, will the companies put the brakes on in time?