The closure of the European market due to the spread of COVID-19 across the continent will generate considerable losses for Costa Rica's melon and watermelon export sector. Agustin Penon, a businessman dedicated to this activity, told Diario Extra that demand has fallen drastically and that the buyers were retaining payments due to lack of economic liquidity.
Some importers have already stated that they were not sure if they would be able to sell the fruit in their markets, so many growers have decided to stop the harvest. According to estimates, 20% to 25% of the production will be lost, equivalent to an area of 1,100 hectares.
Penon said that his company was trying to keep people employed for as long as possible, but that they had already decided to close until further notice. At this time, the greatest expectation is that their external customers can meet the outstanding payments.
"We have been patient with the situation and we are giving it a chance. The demand for watermelon fell by 30% and the demand for melon fell by 40% to 50%. The country has just over 5,300 hectares devoted to producing melon and watermelon for export, which in volume represents about 7,500 containers,” he stated.
Rogis Bermudez, the president of the National Production Council (CNP), said that they were working to link producers and suppliers so that they can market the harvest in cases like this.
Public institutions are being asked to request products that are currently in a crisis, such as melon and watermelon, to help sales. The same request has been made to cantonal agricultural centers so that the product can be placed in prisons, hospitals, and the Public Force. "We have a market department that is responsible for making those links," he said.