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Peak season for Greek watermelons

The season for Greek watermelons started in May and is currently enjoying its peak. “Farmers throughout Pelloponesos and Messinia are in production and supply is steady,” says Panos Goumas of the Greek export company Agrexpo. “The quality is good and there aren’t any problems. Last year we had some issues due to the extreme differences between day and night temperatures, which was especially problematic at the beginning of the season. But this season we’ve got good sizes and quality.
Agrexpo exports watermelons to Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. “We treat every market equally, when quality is concerned. Most of our markets are part of the EU, so the market is united. This means that in general, Slovakia has the same prices for watermelons as Germany.”

“However, there are differences in preferences. Somehow, German and Slovakian consumers prefer larger sizes of 10 kg and up, while Poland and the Czech Republic prefer smaller watermelons of 5 to 7 kg. We don’t know what causes this difference. Maybe it has to do with tradition?” muses Panos.
The main variety for Agrexpo is the Dumara watermelon. “It’s a good variety that meets with the criteria of our clients. It has a good shape, great taste and a good color. It provides a win/win situation.”

The current European market is good, as high temperatures and sunny weather stimulate consumption. “The current market is mainly competitive in terms of prices. Most other producing countries, like Italy, have the same market circumstances.”
Panos says his company isn’t really focused on branching out to new markets. “We do however attend exhibitions and events to make new contacts. Every couple of years we get new clients. Sometimes these clients might be based in a market we’re already exporting to and at other times this might be a client from a market we’ve not yet entered.”
According to Panos, the main challenge in the coming season is to find a good balance for prices for both growers and customers. The company tries to maintain the highest standards for quality. To achieve this for each and every market Agrexpo supplies to is quite demanding. The company supplies its produce to importers, wholesalers and supermarkets.
“Because of the hot weather, demand on the local market is slightly higher than last year. As for production, the volumes are at the same level as last year, which is about 40.000 tons in total. I can’t really say if our volumes have been increasing or not in the last three to five years. The economical situation of Greece is still really bad, so there isn’t any stable growth in our sector.”

Change in mentality
Agrexpo isn’t currently involved in contract farming with regards to watermelons. The company does however make use of contract farmers for its other produce and may very well choose to use this approach for watermelons as well.
“Growers of the older generations aren’t very keen about contract farming. They want to be control of their production from start to finish. The next generation is much more open to discussion for contract farming. Younger farmers want to go abroad and want to see what we can accomplish by expanding our market.”
“It all starts and ends with the right people. If the right people put more effort in the sector for watermelons, they could improve our quality standards and provide more means for traceability . We could use more education for modernized methods of cultivation and packaging. Currently the level of knowledge of Greek farmers is very low. When hearing about innovative methods and technology, they’re more suspicious than they are curious. But with the right people to provide this education, we’d e be able to accomplish a lot for the Greek watermelon sector.”

For more information:

Panos Goumas
Tel.: +30 27210 82149
Email: panos@agrexpo.gr
Web: www.agrexpo.gr
FB: www.facebook.com/agrexpo

Author: Yzza Ibrahim / Peter Duivenvoorde

Publication date: 6/13/2017
Author: Yzza Ibrahim
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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