While the productive seasons in countries of the southern hemisphere are about to end, the northern hemisphere is currently preparing for the start of the new campaign. For Brazil, the start of the season was good, but after the turn of the year, the demand dropped. One of the reasons for this is the fact that other countries in the region hit the market, namely Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama. These all have a strong focus on exports. On top of that, the demand is falling in traditional markets, such as Europe, where winter weather is still a factor during the first months of the year. The southern European countries are now preparing for the start of the season, which will kick off in the coming weeks. In the US, the first early harvest was delayed due to the impact of a sudden cold front.
Brazil: Good start and acceptable end for the season
This month, Brazil is shipping the last melons, as the Spanish season is expected to start in April. Exporters avoid both the Spanish competition and the EU's higher import duties. This means that the harvest volume in the regions of Rio Grande do Norte and Ceara is falling.
Looking back, the season had quite a good start in August 2017. With the end of the European season, Brazilian exports increased. The productivity was lower this year due to water shortages. Europe is the largest buyer of Brazilian melons. Normally, consumption in the northern hemisphere decreases from September. This year, 213,000 tonnes have been exported in the period from August to February, which is 1% more than in the previous season. Also, the turnover rose by 10% compared to the same period of the previous campaign.
In the first months of 2018, exports declined, which is a normal development. In addition to the smaller demand from Europe, growers were struggling with weather related problems in the most important growing areas. This was due, among other things, to a higher humidity, which had repercussions on the volume. In February, 30% less was exported than in January. Moreover, competition from other countries in Latin America has become fiercer. Costa Rica and Honduras were the first to hit the market.
Guatemala is the largest exporter
Guatemala has overtaken Spain as the largest melon exporter in the world. This is shown by data from COMTRADE. Of the 2,429.17 million kilos of melons traded worldwide, the country had a share of 455.34 million kilos. Spanish exports accounted for 444.37 million kilos. In previous years, those roles were reversed.
Honduras wants to export more
From April, the country will start exporting 18 containers of melons per week to Mexico. The latest agreements with the Mexican authorities were signed in late March. In addition to Mexico, exports are shipped to Japan, the US, South Korea and Central America. The country is also interested in exporting to Chile. Earlier this season, the port of Taiwan received its first containers.
Panama: Exporter sees opportunities
Under the umbrella of the national Panama Exporta label, a melon exporter has been aiming to export to the Asian market. This exporter is currently gaining a foothold in the UK, the Netherlands and the US. During the 2017/2018 season, the company exported 100 containers to the international market.
Australia: Industry crushed by listeria outbreak
The Australian rockmelon industry suffered a major blow last month, with an isolated listeria outbreak at a farm in New South Wales. The industry estimates that it has lost AU$15 million since the news of the contamination, with sales grinding to a halt as buyers lost confidence in the industry, despite the bacteria only being linked to the one property and the rest of the industry's melons declared safe to eat.
This week, major supermarket Woolworths have returned rockmelon to some stores in Queensland. While in another positive for the industry, demand from an important export market has increased. A large Western Australian rockmelon exporter has reported that Japanese contacts have placed rockmelon orders. The northern melon season will commence soon and fruit from North Queensland, the Northern Territory and the north of Western Australia will be available in stores.
South Africa: Good season in the north
The watermelon season in the north developed rather differently than in the south. As a trader put it, "everything to do with watermelons happened in the north." There were no large volumes available in the Cape region and the quality was disappointing. The north had a completely different scenario, with a trader rating the season as good. The average price in March was 20% higher than last year. Seedless watermelons account for a fraction of the total watermelon production in South Africa.
The north had a dry and early summer. There was some hail in October and November. The growers in the far north, close to the border with Zimbabwe, irrigate the fields. For the growers more to the south, in Limpopo Waterberg, the rain was insufficient. As a result, the volumes were lower and the fruit sizes smaller.
Considerable volumes were available on the Tshwane wholesale market. The demand has dropped slightly as a result of the changing weather conditions. The watermelons currently on the market come from the South of Limpopo and Free State. The season runs until the end of May, which is slightly later than normal, and the demand remains good. The demand from supermarkets is particularly good. Normally, the demand in March is about 20% higher than in December; this year, however, this percentage has reached 30%.
Italians are waiting for domestic production
Outside the Italian season, there is little demand for melons and watermelons, as reported by some traders in the central part of the country. The domestic season could start any time soon, but it will take a few weeks before large volumes are available. The mini-melons from Central America remain available until the end of March. The price stands at around 1.20 Euro per kilo, which is a low one, according to a trader. Melons yield 3 to 4 Euro per kilo. Melons from North Africa cost 2.20 Euro per kilo. A trader explains that netted melons from Morocco have a good taste, but there is little demand. Last week, the price was still 3 Euro per kilo; on 29 March, that price had dropped to 2.20 Euro. The yellow melons from Brazil cost 1 Euro per kilo. "It is not a big market," says a trader about the imported melons. "Italian consumers associate melons with the heat of the summer, and so far, the temperatures have been more wintery." Watermelons are imported from Costa Rica (1.20 Euro/kg) and Panama. A trader tells us that he did not import watermelons this year because he foresaw that there would be no demand for them.
Spain: Murcia is a major melon exporter
Murcia is the largest supplier of melons in Spain. In 2016, this region exported 228.56 million kilos of melons. With that figure, the region ranks second in the world, only behind Guatemala and ahead of Brazil, which exports 224.79 million kilos of melons. The remaining Spanish regions combined exported 215.81 million kilos. Spain usually dominates the European watermelon market; however, its huge production volume makes it difficult to get good prices. Around 85% of Spanish watermelons are marketed in Europe.
In France it is not yet spring
"The import of melons in France is somewhat delayed," says a trader. "This has to do with the early Easter. Good volumes have arrived from Morocco, but the volumes from Senegal were disappointing." Melon consumption in France is low at the moment. "The temperatures are simply too low; there is no spring weather yet and people are not eating melons."
Another trader highlights the popularity of Charentais melons. "If there is one product that is gaining popularity, it is certainly this melon." This trader's import activities start in Morocco and then continue in Spain. He ends the season with French products.
German consumption stable despite cold
The overseas melon season is slowly coming to an end for German importers. Traders expect to continue importing exclusively from Latin America for about a month, after which the melons from southern Europe will also gradually hit the market. Currently, Honduras is mentioned as a very important growing area, as are Costa Rica and Brazil. Importers complain about delayed deliveries from Latin America, yet this is not a major loss, as most large trading companies do not consider melons as one of the main sources of income.
Prices are relatively stable for almost all varieties, as is the supply. The demand has also been better than expected. Even during the cold weeks of February and March, consumption remained relatively stable. The demand remained the same in the run-up to Easter. Traders do mention some long-term trends. The popularity of Moroccan Charentais melons is on the rise, at the expense of the Honduran production. As for watermelons, trends clearly favour varieties with little or no seeds. The honey melon, however, has remained the most consumed variety for years.
Netherlands: Cantaloupe melons losing ground to the Galia
Last week, the delays in the shipments made it difficult to supply the necessary volumes for the Easter promotions. This applied to shipments from Costa Rica and Panama, but also from Honduras. For watermelons, there is still a good market situation. The final stage of the Brazilian season has so far been very good. In the case of yellow melons, however, importers see a dip. There is sufficient supply, but a lower demand. Galia melons mainly come from Honduras. Their quality is quite variable, but money is still being made from the good melons.
A noteworthy trend in recent years, according to importers, is the gradual loss of popularity of Cantaloupe melons. In recent years, the demand has been increasingly shifting to Charentais and Galia melons. In watermelons, they see more and more demand for the seedless mini-watermelons, although ordinary watermelons sales remain good. In the past, the small sizes went mainly to Scandinavia, but now the seedless varieties are also becoming attractive for customers on the domestic market.
A producer/importer of Costa Rican melons describes the start of the season as one of the best in years. For him, climate change has had a positive impact, because elsewhere in Central America, the productions are lagging behind. There will be supply of Costa Rican melons in Europe up to (and including) week 20. The only small issue is that melon sizes are a little smaller this year.
Sweden: Yellow melons in demand during Easter
Brazil is still on the market in this Scandinavian country. Yellow melons are very popular during Easter. The demand is therefore high in the run-up to the holidays. It is the most popular melon, although there is also demand for the Cantaloupe and Galia. Prices are normal, according to a trader, with 1 Euro paid for the Honeydew and 1.50 Euro for the other varieties.
US: Cold delayed harvest South Florida
The supply of watermelons is a bit scarce at the moment and that will not change in the coming week. For other melons, such as Cantaloupe and Honeydew, the supply is stable. These melons are imported from Central America (Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica) and Mexico. "At the moment, there are hardly any imported watermelons and the domestic production is not yet available," says a trader. The first watermelons from Florida were expected around 15 March, but due to a sudden cold front, the harvest has been delayed. The first watermelons from South Florida are expected to hit the market in early April.
The supply of Honeydew and Cantaloupe is similar to that of previous years. The first domestic melons are expected by the end of April. The cold weather has taken a toll at the start of the season. "In recent years, the first watermelons from North Florida arrived with Memorial Day (28 May 2018), but I do not think we'll have them again around that date this year," said a trader. In June, however, some overlap is expected if the watermelons from North Florida arrive to the market at the same time as those from Georgia.
At the moment, the demand is good and prices show a slightly rising trend. The Cantaloupe and Honeydew cost around US$ 13 FOB.