The cooperative is restarting the crop in Almeria and is looking towards the spring campaign with good prospects and a 10% increase in melon and watermelon volumes
UNICA’s spring campaign has started off with a production growth forecast of around 10% and important new developments, mainly for the melon line, which already covers 600 ha in Almeria and Murcia. In general, its strategy lies in bringing forward the plantation time frame in Almeria and Murcia, starting and ending a week earlier, in an attempt to get round the complicated month of August, when the holidays and the start of the competition from the competition in La Mancha make the market more difficult.
They are also restarting the yellow melon crop after a five-year break. “We had stopped due to quality problems, but last year we tried out new varieties, Chester from Seminis and Malerva from Fitó, which make the grade, and in this campaign we have increased the surface area by another 20 ha,” explains Chema Fernández, Head of melons. If everything goes well and the quality is guaranteed, next year the programme could be extended to farms in Murcia.
The addition of yellow melons is working alongside a reduction of Galia in Almeria, which “has been in a bad way” in recent years regarding quality. According to Chema Fernández, “not enough attention is being paid to it. There are too many varieties, production problems… Years ago it had a very good yield. It is a shame, but each campaign that goes by is an ordeal. We have tried to analyse the reason and now we only work with two varieties that do not get spotted virus and have sufficient Brix,” he affirms.
Cantaloupe melons do seem to be seeing a small increasing in Almeria and Murcia, encouraged by the good response of the supermarkets and the production of piel de sapo melons is rising slightly in Almeria and it is being maintained in Murcia. Additionally, they have planted new varieties for specialist clients in piel de sapo, such as Romolo (mini round melon from Syngenta) in Murcia, which will be sold in various supermarket chains, with a view to increasing the volumes next year.
Regarding the calibres, Chema Fernández affirms that there is “a fight” going on. “The traditional markets are dropping their sale percentages and the supermarkets have taken these over. We are working to bring out the most profitable sizes, calibre 5 and 6 in Galia and Cantaloupe (even in Portugal, which used to consume a large amount of calibre 4); 10-12 in yellow melons; and piel de sapo with flavour and size (over 2 kg and because most of them are for the home market).”
In watermelons, the campaign started off in week 15 with very good quality and without any problems on the first farms. Loli Rodríguez, Product Manager, explained that this year their volumes are increasingly slightly in their only crop area for this product, Almeria and as a new development, they have started up a small watermelon programme in Murcia to evaluate the possibility of extending their crops there.
UNICA has obtained recognition for its products with the Freshquita brand, which guarantees purchasers who acquire watermelons (and other products such as melons) with a high quality standard in flavour, sugar and colour. To do this, they carry out a protocol throughout the entire process, similar to the ones used on their watermelons by companies specialising in quality.
Its portfolio includes white striped seedless and micro-seed watermelons and yellow watermelon (mainly for Germany), along with black Fashion through one of its associates.