Italian company bets on Cora Seeds' Nikas F1 mini-watermelons

"The size difference between mini and traditional watermelons is of 65% and 35% respectively. This perfectly shows the conversion happening in the watermelon sector, which has been going on for three-four years in Sicily," explains Salvatore Dell'Arte (in the photo below), chairman of the Società Cooperativa Agricola Aurora in Pachino (Sicily).

Aurora is a historic cooperative, founded in 1976. It currently comprises 87 partners working on 140 hectares in the Pachino area - an area used for the production of tomatoes (75%), courgettes (between November and April) and watermelons (starting from the end of April), for a total of 1,600 tons.

Salvatore Dell'Arte explains that, "different factors led to the success of mini-watermelons. The size is really practical, especially for smaller families, it does not take up too much space in the fridge and it's not very heavy. The shelf-life is excellent and it can be packaged better. This is why all of the main mass retailer chains prefer them."

In order to satisfy demand, the Aurora cooperative relies on selected varieties, among which is Cora Seeds' Nikas F1 hybrid. "Nikas was introduced a couple of years ago and it immediately became the favourite. This year, we will produce at least 25-30% more than in 2012. We have also decided to spread out transplants starting the end of January/February until the beginning of April. Our aim is to have produce available until mid-July in order to avoid remaining without stocks as has happened last year, when the mini-watermelon campaign ended on 25th June while demand was still high."

Left to right: Mr. Lorenzo Sena from Pachino's Area Verde Nursery Garden, Salvatore dell'Arte, chairman of Aurora cooperative and Antonio Putrino, Cora Seeds area manager. 

The current season, which started on 27th April, was affected by the weather. "Early produce from Sicily has to deal with the different climate of Sicily compared to the rest of Italy. When the sun is shining over here, it does not mean that the weather is as good elsewhere, so consumption and demand for watermelons is affected. For example, this year we started well but then the weather slowed down sales, therefore prices are still slightly lower than 2012. The season though has still a while to go, so we will see!"

The cooperative will send the first Nikas watermelons to Germany this week: "We are talking about 33 pallets, which represent our debut in Germany, a country used to 4-5 kg watermelons. The market is now opening to lighter fruits, weighing between 1.5 and 3.5 kg."

Mini-watermelons cultivated by the cooperative's partners are collected in a single 2,500 sq m packaging warehouse: fruits are delivered in bins, and are then placed in plastic boxes with foldable sides containing 6 to 10 fruits depending on the diameter.

Salvatore Dell'Arte
Soc. Coop. Agr. Aurora
C.da Scivolaneve
96018 Pachino (SR) - Sicily - Italy
Tel.: +39 0931 594389

Productors interested in Nikas F1 please contact:
Antonio Putrino

Cora Seeds Area Manager
Cell.: (+39) 328 1826334

Andrea Casadei
Technical Manager for Italy
Cell.: (+39) 331 6088896

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