In 2021 Russia could be definitely setting a new record for watermelon imports. With several months still left till the end of the year, the record has already been set – as of the end of July 2021, imports of watermelon in Russia reached 46 thousand tons, while in 2020, in total, 38,3 thousand tons of watermelon were imported.
Thus, according to EastFruit estimates, by the end of 2021, imports of fresh watermelon to Russia may exceed 70 thousand tons for the first time, and the import volume will grow by about 80% compared to 2020’s record imports.
In certain circumstances, the imports of watermelons to the Russian Federation may even double. in 2021, watermelon prices across Europe were unusually low. Even if Russia could not directly import watermelons from Ukraine where farmers were ready to give them from the field for free, imports from Central Asia, where prices during the peak export in June-July, were also the lowest in recent years.
In particular, the average wholesale price for watermelons in Uzbekistan in June-July ranged from $0.06 to $0.08 per kg. Watermelons were sold only $0.01-0.02 per kg more expensive in Tajikistan. For the first time, Georgia was among the large suppliers of fresh watermelon to Russia, where prices for watermelon were slightly higher than in Central Asia – about $0.10-0.12 per kg. However, transport from Georgia to Russia was much cheaper, which gave Georgian suppliers an advantage.
In Russia, watermelon prices during peak season in 2021 were at the average level for recent years. By the end of the season, they began to decline sharply because of the growing supply. This was also influenced to a certain extent by the later start of the season, which led to a sharp increase in the supply of watermelons on the market in late August-early September 2021.
As you see, supplies of watermelons to Russia from Central Asia and Georgia in June-July were possible due to the high price in Russia and low prices in the exporting countries. That is why watermelon was the key item for Uzbek fruit and vegetable exports in June. In July, Uzbekistan increased the volume of watermelon exports to Russia almost fourfold to record 11.2 thousand tons.
As for Turkey, it used a different window of opportunity for watermelon exports to Russia, starting earlier than Uzbekistan. In May, Turkey already exported more than 1.3 thousand tons of watermelon to the Russian Federation and reached a peak export of 9.7 thousand tons in June, which was also a record for the supply of watermelons from Turkey to Russia. The supply of watermelons to Russia from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan and North Macedonia was also higher, while China, on the contrary, reduced exports.
Naturally, the exports of watermelon from Russia during the same period decreased, if you do not take into account the supply to the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. Exports decreased, primarily to the EU countries, such as Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. The unusual low prices in Ukraine has led to the almost complete ousting of Russian exporters by Ukrainian ones from the Belarusian market for the first time in the last 11 years. Nevertheless, Russia managed to double the exports of watermelon to Mongolia to more than 1,000 tons.