The watermelon season in Turkey has kicked off, and according to Coskun Eren, marketing manager for Turkish fresh produce exporter Eren, everything is pretty much smooth sailing so far: “The general expectations for our watermelon season are okay for now. We will start with the open field watermelons next week. So far, we’re seeing very similar exported volumes compared to last year. There are no problems with the crop, and also no problems with quality. We’re steadily increasing our volumes for different seedless and micro watermelon varieties every year and we hope to do good in those areas this year as well.”
As the weather is fluctuating in Europe quite a bit, consumers could decide to buy less watermelons, but according to Eren demand has been similar to the previous year. “We’re not seeing the current weather having a significant effect on demand from the EU. It’s almost identical to the demand of last year. The Turkish local market is buying lots of watermelons, as always. The weather has been a bit unstable lately, very hot in the midday and cool to cold during the night time, so this is causing some fluctuations in the demand. It isn’t hot throughout the week. We do hope to increase our exports. The season started very similarly to last year.
Turkey has to compete with both Italy as well as Greece when it comes to the European market and it’s a race to see who can get on the market first, Eren explains: “We usually compete with Greece and Italy for the EU market. It’s hard to predict what will happen, as our exported volumes are very closely linked to how Greece's prices develop and how the Turkish local demand is. The competition is very fierce actually. Whoever starts first will get the upper hand in the season, so we’re watching the Greek season every year. Some years we are earlier and some years they are the early bird. This year, the watermelon prices dropped a bit sooner than expected, so I can say they are a couple of days earlier than us. We start with the greenhouse watermelons and then transition to the open field. Whoever gets the open field orders confirmed first will be on top for at least two to three weeks.”
Despite demand being quite stable, the prices for watermelons have increased compared to the 2022 season. Eren states this is due to global inflation. “The prices are around 10 per cent higher compared to last year, but that is expected as a result of the inflation and increased costs around the globe. I also see that the EU watermelon prices are also higher compared to last year, around 10 per cent or so as well. Our major markets are the Balkan region, Russia, Poland, Belarus, and the South-Eastern Baltic regions. As a new market for the watermelons, we aim to go into central Europe, but that depends on the Greek season mostly, since their transport price advantage becomes more significant in these regions. This makes it a weekly evaluated situation for us. It’s hard to get the central EU countries to commit to a long seasonal program under these conditions.”
“Turkey is getting bigger in different varieties and original products. Every year, Turkey is moving away from the traditional watermelon and exploring different options, such as micro watermelons and different seedless varieties. With those, we surely can compete with Greece, Italy and Spain. We also offer these products along with our traditional watermelons. These varieties come a little bit later in the season, we are almost in season for them this year. For Eren, it’s not only important to increase the exported volume, but to also offer our customers different varieties,” Eren concludes.