Melon and watermelon productions are stabilising in the Region of Murcia, while the former is slowing down its foreign sales and the latter continues showing a positive tone.
The word that defines this melon and watermelon campaign for the Region of Murcia is immobility in production volumes.
The chairperson of the melon and watermelon sector in Proexport explains that “there will be no increase in any varieties of melon or watermelon.”
Laureano Montesinos attributes this situation to the uncertainty caused by Brexit that meant the programmes were designed from a conservative view point. Negative results in late melons in all the varieties were added to this factor, an aspect that was taken into consideration by the producers when making their forecasts.
Galia melons continue to have the largest production volume registered at Proexport, followed by yellow and Piel de Sapo. A considerable distance behind these are Cantaloupe and Charentais.
Have watermelons peaked?
Regarding watermelons, the fruit that has been taking over the market share vacated by melons, which did not always respond to the flavour qualities demanded by consumers, Juan López, assistant coordinator of the Sector, affirms that the European market is mature and there are no growth possibilities because “we have already reached the maximum volumes and we cannot continue to increase at a rate of 10%, as was the case in previous years.”
Accordingly, López explains that “the national watermelon market worked very well in April because the produce had no competition, but in May there was a great deal of offer without demand, and the campaign has collapsed.”
The entry into production of other sources such as Senegal, Brazil or Morocco, along with temperatures that are not encouraging for consumption in Europe, have caused an important decline in watermelon prices.
The need for innovation
The evolution in consumption, along with climate change are two elements that the making the sector look at the urgent need to back R&D+i in the sector to obtain new varieties that adapt to the current premises, both for producers and for consumers.
Montesinos recalls that “the sector has not put the new challenges being set forth to one side and it is working hand in hand with the seed companies to obtain a melon with greater flavour and aroma, at the same time as being better adapted to the water resources available for irrigation.” However, much to our regret, “we are seeing an acute passivity in many distributors towards any commitment that means innovation, in spite of the fact that we, as producers, are open to any proposals.”
A drop in melon sales and a rise in watermelon
The export figure for melons in the Region dropped by around 30,000 tonnes. In 2017, this figure reached 231,658 tonnes compared to the 200,976 tonnes exported in 2018. However, and on a positive point, the invoicing volume was higher, reaching 160.7 million euros compared to the 155.9 million euros from the previous campaign.
By country, France is the main buyer with 57,395 tonnes and 28.6 % of market share, followed by Germany with 22% and 49,989 tonnes and the United Kingdom that buys 39,843 tonnes, meaning almost 20% of the exports.
In watermelons, exports reached a figure of 175,933 tonnes and a value of 74.9 million euros in 2018, compared to the 66.6 million euros of the 2017 campaign, in which 171,196 tonnes were marketed.
By destination, Germany is the main recipient of watermelons from Murcia, with a market share reaching 35% of its exports and which represents a volume of 55,667 tonnes. This is followed by the United Kingdom, with 21% of the market share and 33,341 tonnes and France with 12% and 19,110 tonnes.
Although the main part of the campaign of the two products is concentrated in the months of June, July and August, production in Murcia tends to expand over time with early crops in May and late ones in September in the case of melons. And for watermelons, the earliest production is in April, which is tending to increase, as it does not come up against any other competitors.