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Patrick Cluchier, Ets Tonfoni:

“No field melon should be sold at less than 1.20€ per kilo”

This is a special year for the French melon. The trade has been asking producers for years to delay their planting schedules in order to arrive later on the market and avoid direct competition with Morocco and Spain. However, the supply from these 2 countries is low this year so there is a shortage of melons on the market.

“We have gradually shifted the planting in order to avoid the large imported volumes. This year, unfortunately, the weather conditions in Morocco and Spain have considerably reduced their volumes and the quality of their melons has really been affected. In May, there was a lack of imports and not enough French melons yet on the market, which resulted in very high prices,” explains Patrick Cluchier, chairman and CEO of Tonfoni Establishments. 

Tranche de Miel melon

Late decrease in melon prices
At the end of May, the situation was suddenly reversed, especially in the southeast of France, where the weather conditions were particularly favorable for the production of French melons. “We knew that large volumes would arrive around this time, so we have seen prices drop from 4-5 euros [4.20-5.25 USD] per kg to 1-1.5 euro [1.05-1.58 USD] or even lower, depending on the promotional actions of some retailers. Our clients were warned about this increase in volumes, combined with the favorable weather for production. Yet, we still regret to see this gap, once again, between the prices leaving our site and those practiced in the stores.” 

“We, as professionals, are asking our retail partners to be more responsive so that retail prices can be more in line with the prices paid. The effect would be twice as beneficial. The large volumes could be sold immediately, thus avoiding overflowing fridges and sales without fixed prices on wholesale markets. The quality of the fruit would also be better since they would not have to be refrigerated. Consumers are the ones who would benefit from this the most. Prices would then stabilize at levels much more acceptable and viable for our sector.”

Tonfoni La Signature

Great quality and interesting volumes for the 2022 campaign
We should finally arrive at such a situation, since promotional actions are planned to accompany the arrival of the nice weather. “This should help absorb the peaks of production. Besides, we are rather positive about the season. The quality is great this year and the volumes are interesting as well. We planted in very good weather conditions and everything was set up well. Additionally, nice temperatures are always favorable for the consumption of melons, so we are quite confident about the evolution of this campaign.”

Melon: loss leader and image of summer prices in stores
Once again, the right balance must be found in terms of prices. “The drastic increase in production costs (30%) has obviously had an impact on the actual costs. Soon, there will not be any effective phytosanitary product to manage the pressure from pests and diseases, in addition to the very real and heavy effects of climate change (rains in Spain 2022, center-west of France 2021, shortage of water…). All of this will inevitably affect the volumes and continue to increase the actual costs for the producers. The entire fruit and vegetable sector is currently facing the same issues, but we feel that the melon has become the loss leader of the fruit and vegetable shelves this year. It has gradually become associated with low prices, although producing tasty and safe melons (repeated audits, phytosanitary analyses, Global Gap, HEV…) has actually become a luxury!”

“It is sometimes cheaper to buy a melon than a potato, which is a respectable product but whose packing process is highly mechanized and automated. The risk of practicing such low prices without paying producers properly is that many tend to abandon their career. There are so many small producers on the verge of quitting, precisely because of these non-remunerative prices. It is the very soul of the melon that will disappear with them!”

Cavaillon melon

A better remuneration of the producers is necessary
In order to avoid the erosion of the French production, it is essential to provide a better remuneration for the producers, especially in the current inflationary context, but it is also important to value the entire production. Both small (15) and large (9) calibers must be sold all summer at prices that are not ridiculous! Thirty years ago, the clients only wanted the caliber 15, and we always struggled to sell the caliber 12. This shows that in constant value, prices are much lower today. Generally speaking, field melons and greenhouse melons should not be sold at less than 1€ [1.05 USD] and 1.50€ [1.58 USD] per kilo, respectively. There should also be more solidarity and transparency within the sector, and small producers should be heard as well.”

In order to increase the value of its producers’ melons, Tonfoni Establishments works with small-scale farms and makes quality a priority. “The production areas are all between 2 and 15 hectares. Thanks to our rigorous selection work and our search for high-end melons, we are able to pay a little more to our producers, partners with whom we have forged a very strong connection.”

For more information:
Patrick Cluchier
Ets Tonfoni
Phone: +33 4 90 73 11 63 

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