The Spanish watermelon season has just started with the harvest in Almeria, while the arrival of Piel de Sapo melons has been delayed and no significant volumes are expected until the second half of May.
At the national level, the production volume of both watermelons and Piel de Sapo melons is expected to be similar to last season’s, since the acreage remains stable for both products, despite the poor results in terms of prices in the previous campaign and the fears of a possible shortage of water in the north of Almeria and Murcia. This year, however, the acreage devoted to yellow and Galia melons in Almeria has been reduced, and this trend also affects Piel de Sapo melons to a lower extent, according to Diego Maestre, International Crop Coordinator Melon/Watermelon/Squash at Rijk Zwaan.
Watermelon consumption on the rise
“Last year, there was a great overlap between the different watermelon producing areas of Spain which led to prices falling below production costs until August. Despite of this, consumption continues to grow in Spain due to the fact that large distribution chains have turned it into a convenience product by selling it already cut in stores, and in northern Europe, there has also been a growing demand for watermelons. In fact, the significant increase in sales during the winter months has been remarkable for mini watermelon varieties with micro seeds, on which Rijk Zwaan is betting strongly,” explains the expert. “One of the reasons for this increase in the demand is the fact that there is a continuous supply from Brazil and the quality is greatly improving. It is a growing niche market,” he adds.
At the moment, the Spanish watermelon market is mainly supplied by Senegal. The fruit’s quality is still good, so sales are stable and prices are good, although the latter are expected to start falling in about fifteen days, as the volumes supplied by Almeria increase.
One of the worst off-season campaigns for Brazilian melons
The Spanish companies that produce Piel de Sapo melons in Brazil have had really excessive volumes from the end of December to March, which has led to ruinous prices. “The market can usually absorb around 90 containers per week, but there have been weeks with more than 130 containers,” says Diego Maestre. “It has been perhaps the worst off-season campaign ever.”
The interest of Spanish supermarket chains in having the end of the Brazilian Piel de Sapo campaign be immediately followed by the arrival of the first melons from Murcia continues to rise, and the trend is to avoid Almeria, which is increasingly identified as an area specialised in watermelon production.
Following the huge supply recorded in the previous 4 months, and given the arrival of the rainy season in Brazil, there is now a shortage of melons in the market. “Since the start of April, melon prices have risen significantly and at the moment, they are very expensive. There will only be small volumes of melons available until mid-May, when the harvest will start in Almeria. The latter is starting late, mostly due to excess cold during the end of winter and the beginning of spring.”
Regarding melon production in Senegal, Diego Maestre explains that, unlike in Brazil, where temperatures tend to remain stable during the 6 months of the Piel de Sapo melon campaign, “in Senegal, the temperatures are very unstable, with sharp contrasts between day and night which make it difficult to guarantee the supply of a quality product. There are many who have tried planting melons there and have been hugely disappointed,” he says.