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"Large distributors are turning melons into a commodity"

Global warming will shorten Spanish melon campaign

The Spanish melon season is virtually completed, and unfortunately it has been one to forget. The sector, and especially growers, wonder how in a season with smaller volumes and good temperatures across Europe, the kilo in Castile-La Mancha only reached average prices of between 0.12 and 0.15 Euro, while in Murcia all varieties remained below 0.30 Euro/kilo; prices which do not even cover production costs.

Only Cantaloupe melons stood at slightly higher prices because of there being only small volumes late in the season, as was the case with watermelons from mid-August.

Lower production and abundance of large calibres
"With the exception of Almeria's campaign and the first part of Murcia's season, the campaign has been a disaster," says Diego Maestre, Melon and Courgette Crop Coordinator at Rijk Zwaan Ibérica.

According to the expert, it has been a very strange campaign, starting with high temperatures during the flowering in all producing areas, which resulted in bad setting and a lower yield per square metre. Due to the lower number of fruits per plant, there has been an abundance of large calibres and a lack of small sizes, which have been highly sought after, especially for export destinations.

Clear growth trend in Piel de Sapo exports
According to Diego Maestre, "at Rijk Zwaan Ibérica we have registered a significant increase in the export of Piel de Sapo melons. There had never been so many Piel de Sapo exports to European markets," he assures.

Retailers are turning melons into a commodity
The truth is that there has been a smaller production, good quality and high temperatures that encourage consumption. So what has gone wrong, then?

"I believe melons and watermelons are becoming commodity products, because large distributors are using them as 'bait'. There is a price war between retail chains that is causing the value of these products to plunge, and this affects the whole chain," states Diego Maestre.

"I think producers should take steps to start exporting directly, by obtaining quality certifications, running their own packing facilities, and especially through good marketing."

Similarly, "growers should try to sign programmes with distributors in order to succeed; otherwise, Spain just becomes a great auction with atomised supply, and buyers take advantage of this. Producers should look for faithful clients in Spain and overseas and focus on quality, which can make a big difference when it comes to this product."

Climate change will shorten the Spanish melon season
High temperatures this spring and summer have also led to the proliferation of whitefly, the New Delhi virus vector. "In the past it was only to be found in Almeria and Murcia. Now, the presence of New Delhi in Castile-La Mancha is virtually uncontrollable," warns Diego Maestre.

Average temperatures in summer are increasing, as shown in graphs for the past ten years. Therefore, "we have to protect ourselves against the massive influx of fly and aphids. I guess the late melon acreage will be reduced. In Castile-La Mancha they have learned to diversify the production. This could also extend the window for the marketing of Brazilian melons" he points out.

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