With a slow start to the campaign, both cucurbitaceas are competing to be the fruit of the summer, in a season with weak competition from stone fruit.
The start of the campaign was slowed down in the earliest production areas, but it has taken off strongly since week 25, when the temperatures consolidated the normal values for this time of year, both in Europe and in Spain.
Melons are more popular in smaller formats, representing greater convenience for shoppers and an advantage for operators who want to enter foreign markets.
On the Spanish market, the brand offer of Piel de Sapo continues to rise, where different operators are competing with increasingly imaginative campaigns, both on television and digitally. Additionally, the commercial offer, which ten years ago included four-kilo melons, has changed today to generally become products of around 2.5 kilos that live alongside a large offer of cut melons on the supermarket shelves.
Watermelons continue with a good consumption rate, endorsed by the consistency of flavour, an indisputable factor to ensure that consumers do not hesitate to purchase them. All of this, at a time when the younger generations do not know about varieties that are not seedless, the great success story in the category. 438,000 tonnes of watermelons were eaten in Spanish households in 2020, compared to 389,000 tonnes of melons.
The unstable spring weather conditions, with more rainy days than usual and mild temperatures, complicated the start of the melon campaign in the Region of Murcia, which started gaining momentum as the weeks went by, providing an outlet for the produce stocks that had accumulated over the weeks.
The chairman of the Melon and Watermelon sector at Proexport, Laureano Montesinos, explains that “greater control of the productions has been carried out due to excess damp, which has affected the yield, but this does not mean there has been a change in the fruit quality.”
There has been a reduction in hectares for the yellow, Galia, Cantaloupe and Charentais varieties of around 8% compared to the previous year. However, it is worth mentioning that the later melon varieties are not suffering from this drop, due to the fact that the last campaign was the most profitable one during this last period and the farmers have taken this into account.
The positive point of the campaign has been its delay, which stopped the productions from Almeria and Murcia from coinciding at all, “which could bring better prices, whenever the weather is good at the destinations.”
The hectares sown with melon for the catering and restaurant sector continue with a downward trend. “The uncertainty created by the development of the pandemic meant a decision to reduce the plantations at the beginning of the year, when no clear return to normality was on the horizon.”
The overall volume of melons and watermelons in the 2020-21 campaign exceeded 220,000 tonnes, with a 7% reduction in melons and a 6% increase in watermelons compared to the previous campaign. “The future of this campaign, even when there are fewer hectares planted for some varieties, does not necessarily mean that exports will be lower because there are many determining factors such as the evolution of the weather in Europe.”
In addition to the E.U. and the U.K., melons from Murcia area also marketed in the Baltic countries, Canada and the Arab Emirates.
The campaign in Almeria
Owing to the earliness of the production in Almeria, this province has been affected worst, where the weather conditions had a greater influence on the favourable development of the produce. Spring 2021 has been one of the most unusual seasons regarding temperatures and rainfall.
In the province of Almeria, the prices for both melons and watermelons have remained below 20 cents a kilo, at times even dropping to 10. Sources from the sector have indicated to this magazine that “the situation became unsustainable; even more so taking into account that these are short cycle products, which require important capital and labour investments. It is devastating to see how the produce ends up becoming cattlefeed.”
Added to this unfavourable situation there is competition from third countries, with increasing volumes every year. Specifically, the entry of Moroccan produce, without any quotas or import duties is becoming increasingly frequent.