With the melon and watermelon campaigns in Brazil and Senegal already completed, the harvest in Almeria is currently underway. The watermelon shortage is reflected in the prices, but the campaign is expected to be difficult, marked by the influence of the drop in tourism as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
“In this first stage of the campaign, it is very difficult to find good quality watermelons due to the problems with the pollination and fruit setting during the spring; a result of bad weather. Many watermelons are hollow or are damaged on the inside,” says Jordi Valle, commercial manager of Melón de Autor. “Working with quality brands as we do, we cannot take the risk of labeling unsuitable products. It is a challenge to find good watermelons right now. There will mostly be a shortage of those watermelons that had their setting between March and April, but there will be a greater supply of mid-season and late watermelons,” he says.
According to Jordi Valle, watermelon prices are on the rise right now. “I have rarely seen watermelon prices like these, although we'll have to wait for higher volumes to enter the market. The price of melons, for which there is greater supply, is quite reasonable, depending on the category, but especially for those harvested at their optimum point of ripeness, such as those we label."
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, many sectors have been affected. Melon and watermelon sales have not escaped the consequences and have suffered significantly. “About 60% of melons and watermelons are consumed in fresh cut formats, and after the start of the pandemic we lost a large part of this segment, given the closure of the Horeca channel. However, supermarkets are now starting to cut and this is reflected in the orders. In our case, we have continued to grow in terms of sales because we have more customers, but this spring there has been a significant drop in the demand. It remains to be seen how the season will go, but it is clear that there will be fewer tourists and different consumption patterns,” says Jordi Valle. "If supermarkets don't definitively activate the sale of cut melon and watermelon, the demand will suffer," he says.
“Difficult times are ahead for everyone. That is why we must pay close attention to consumer habits, which are changing after this pandemic crisis and will continue to evolve even further. This campaign, we will be giving a boost to the sales of our melon variety with a weight below 1.5 kilos, which are labeled under the Le Petit Autor brand. We believe that small fruit will have better chances in the current situation. Consumers are going to look for cheaper fruit that is more convenient to buy and place in their refrigerator. Few will buy expensive fruits weighing 7 kilos that are difficult to carry and store," says Jordi Valle.
The company's commercial director also sees potential in fresh cut products, which are not as affordable, but greatly facilitate the consumption of healthy food. This year, in addition to offering cut melon and watermelon, they will also sell melon with ham, cut into slices, cubes or noodles.