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Spain: Melons a late solution for bad pricesMany farmers cancelled their pepper harvests due to lack of profitability and started to plant melon and watermelon outside the traditional margins.
The president of ASAJA Almería opened the doors to "Diário de Almería", advancing predictions for the melon and watermelon campaign in the field. In his case, he starts first with a cycle for cucumber followed by a melon cycle at every campaign.
This year, perspectives are good, quality wise. "There's no excessive humidity so we are not having problems with spots". If everything goes according to predictions, warm temperatures registered in the last days will cause a quick maturation for watermelon and melon. As for the elected varieties, Vargas says that the majority of farmers in the province are opting, this year, for "the most demanded by consumers", meaning: black seedless watermelon (Fashion type), black melon (Piel de sapo type) and Galia melon. The latter keeps its market, despite a drop in production. Bad results from last year in a big part of cultivation and prices in the widened Winter campaign caused some fears amongst producers that prefer to opt for less expensive varieties than Galia.
"Pepper is not quoting that well and there are people starting to rip it out and planting melon and watermelon in the season when it's not supposed to be planted. The "fever" for getting it right on cultivations leads to farmers that are not familiar with products like green beans to select it. In that case, "the best is to plant a small field, an hectare maximum. Until recollection, the working hand is almost non-existent and, in the end, it doesn't represent that much on expenses".
In the two hectares that Vargas has there is melon. Some days ago he introduced beehives to stimulate pollination and, according to his calculations, many farmers will start to harvest around the 20 of May. "And if temperatures are even higher than now, we can harvest five days before".
If not affected by external factors, Vargas predicts a good season. "I'm an optimist, but we are worried about the entrance of products coming from third-party countries". Since some weeks, any big or medium selling area counts on melon and watermelon coming from Senegal and Costa Rica. "I've seen them at 5 Euro", assures the president of ASAJA-Almería. The worst is that the excessive price is not agreeing with the offered quality. "They don't have the needed maturity. The minimum is 10 Brix degrees and these get to 8 or 9". In exchange, farmers like him demand 13 degrees to assure the client gets an excellent taste.
"When one pays a high price for a product that is not good it reflects on the general image. If a consumer buys a watermelon he doesn't like, when he goes to buy again, he will not buy it, so we are getting damaged".
Other of the characteristics that can make the difference between outside products and the ones from the region is the thickness of the white wall (the interior of the peel). Vargas assures that in the first case it varies between 2 and 2.5 centimeters, while in the second case it's around 0.5 and 1 centimeter.
There are occasions when the fruits don't even have a tag to inform of where they come from. "There are people tagging it with a different origin from where it really came from".
Publication date: 4/25/2012
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