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23rd International Congress of Melon and Watermelon Producers and Exporters

Panama: Good melon and watermelon export prospects

Representatives of 22 countries came together at the 23rd International Congress of Melon and Watermelon Producers of Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean and Panama, which was held for three days, starting last Wednesday in the Panamanian capital.

The manager of the Potuga Fruit Company of Panama, Carlos Campos, said that export opportunities "exist and are growing" for these two products.

The fruits, according to Campos, represent "a significant percentage of the growing export volumes and prospects remain great, as markets are open and there is high demand" of Brazilian and Central American produce.

According to Campos, exports of these fruits to the European market will grow by between 3 and 5%, despite a production deficit in Guatemala and Honduras.

But Campos stressed that the threat of pests, such as the ones suffered in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, remains.

He stressed that the disease, caused by a pathogenic virus, "is now localised in northern Central America and not in the south," but "that does not mean it cannot arrive."

Campos said that local authorities, such as the Institute of Agricultural Research of Panama (IDIAP) or the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) in Costa Rica, together with the International Regional Organization for Agricultural Health (OIRSA), help in this matter, establishing "many quarantine measures" and mechanical agricultural practices "in order to minimise the problem."

Pests make the marketing more difficult, according to Campos, but still "there are opportunities, as the product has a very privileged window during the European winter."

He added that this is true both for Mexico, which ships its product to the United States, and for Central America, which exports it to Europe.

Moreover, Campos explained that drought also presents itself as a problem in the future for the product's cultivation, which is "very much a summer time activity," and that long and dry summers can result "in a limited water supply and difficulties with the crops."

Campos said that the situation for Panama's central region of Azuero, which produces tomatoes, melons and watermelons, becomes "greatly complicated," because it has almost 85% less rainfall than last year. "For the area, this entails even a more critical situation next summer."

He added that in September and October this year there will be rain in this region, but afterwards it has been forecast that there will be a total of 7 months when there won't be enough water to irrigate the crops during the entire summer, as rivers and wells will be left without the vital liquid.

For her part, the president of the Group of Non-Traditional Agro-exporters of Panama (Gantrap), Analeidys Chen de Ríos, told Efe that, despite a summer as long as the current one, Panamanian producers are confident that it will be possible for the activity to be carried out in the first 4 months of 2016, when exports start.

Chen pointed out that, for the members of this Group, the main task for next year is to analyse the situation of all water sources, such as rivers, streams, ponds and wells, "to see if it can cover the needs of the acreage devoted for exports to Europe."


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