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"The hotter it is the more mineral water, beer and watermelons sell”

Lower late season volumes estimated for coming Hungarian watermelon season

The Hungarian watermelon season, set to start later this month, will likely see lower volumes during the later season, but is buoyed by early requests for supplies from Poland and Baltic states. The lower volumes are due to about 15% less plantings compared to last year.

Laszlo Sandor, from BASF Vegetable Seeds in Hungary with 28 years of serving the local watermelon and melons industry, is carefully optimistic that the reasonably good spring weather and early demand from other countries bodes well for the local industry. This is after last year’s disaster when it was the coldest April and May in over 30 years as well as rain during the end of August peak, which forced some producers to leave watermelons in the fields.

“Last year was not really successful. The result of that as well as the increasing input costs together with a doubling of some fertiliser prices led to a decrease in plantings of about 15% from 3 550 hectares in 2021 to 3 000 in 2022. This year the weather is good despite a little variation. Growers are planning to start harvesting on time from about 20 June in the low tunnels in Békés County, in the South-East part of Hungary close to the Romanian border. Now there is real opportunity for Hungarian producers. Fortunately some importers in Poland and the Baltic States already asked to be supplied as early as possible.”

“The local market also provided strong indications that it can absorb a good supply. The demand is stable in Hungary. This year tourism will be on a good level, while nice and warm weather will drive consumption. The hotter it is the more mineral water, beer and watermelons sell,” explains Sandor.


The low tunnels for the early harvest

The early struggles of Spain’s current watermelon crop is well known. The Ukrainian supply will not be more than 40% due to the Russian war says Sandor. The Baltic States don’t really have own production of watermelons while Slovakia only has around 100 hectares. “This provides Hungary with the best opportunity in a long time to supply even more watermelons to the region as well as Germany. Hungary’s main watermelon export markets are the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Germany. Due to much higher transport costs buyers in almost all countries are looking to buy from the closest production areas. This will favour Hungarian producers closer to the border.”

Sandor said there is a definite shift in consumer buying patterns of watermelons in Hungary and Eastern Europe with many preferring smaller sized fruit. “Every two to three years there is a 1 kg on average reduction in the watermelon size demanded by customers. In Germany the market prefers watermelons of 3-5 kg on average, with seedless the preferred option while only a small percentage of consumers still buy seeded fruit.”

The main watermelon variety grown in Hungary from the Nunhems brand is Galender F1, which is also exported to central Europe. “In the last 5 years the varieties and plantings changed from Crimson seeded to dark Crimson seeded and Sugar Baby seedless. Open pollinated varieties almost disappeared and shifted to these better quality new hybrid varieties. Hungary’s watermelon season starts late June and usually finishes at the end of September,” says Sandor.

For more information:
Laszlo Sandor
BASF Vegetable Seeds
Tel: +36 30 9356 722
Email: laszlo.sandor@vegetableseeds.basf.com 
www.nunhems.com 


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