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Chema Fernández, melon sales manager at Unica Fresh:

"This year, we expanded the area devoted to the cultivation of Little Planet melons from 5 to 50 hectares"

The decline in the acreage of some melon varieties in Almería is leading growers to seek alternatives in specialties. Such is the case of Unica Fresh, which this year is going to bet strongly on the Little Planet variety, a Snow-type melon for which they are allocating 50 hectares.

"The acreage of certain melon varieties, especially the Galia, has been decreasing in Almería over the last 10 years, although the most drastic drop has certainly occurred in the last two campaigns," says Chema Fernández, melon sales manager at Unica Fresh.

"In this context, at Unica Fresh we have been studying and testing new specialty varieties, such as a yellow melon with orange flesh, or our biggest bet in terms of new varieties, the Little Planet melon, which we have been planting for two years and with which we conducted the first commercial trials in the previous campaign," says Chema Fernández.

"It is a visually attractive Snow-type melon, with an intense flavor and a Brix ranging between 13 and 17º. It also stands out for being long-lasting in the field and having a long shelf life of between 15 and 20 days without any changes at all in its condition," says the sales manager.

"The response from our customers has been so positive that we have gone from 4 or 5 hectares last year to more than 50 hectares this campaign, with plantations located both in Almeria and Murcia. The project has been commissioned by two supermarket chains in Poland and Germany, the only ones to which we are supplying the product for now," says Chema Fernández.

The Little Planet harvest kicked off last week in Almeria. "Although such a big bet in such a short time may seem like a risk, we think that this campaign will again be a success for this melon, since our customers are excited about it and want continuity. Therefore, we will probably continue to expand the acreage in the next campaigns," he says.

Unica Fresh produces and markets between 20 and 25 million kilos of melon in Almeria and the Region of Murcia. They work with the Piel de Sapo variety, which they supply mostly to Spanish melon specialists, as well as with yellow, Galia, Cantaloupe and some specialties for export.

According to Chema Fernández, prices so far in the campaign have stayed at decent levels for the producers. "Due to some setbacks caused by rain and calima, yields are lower than usual in Almeria and sizes are generally too large."

"However, we are seeing less competition from other origins, such as Morocco, where the drought has taken a significant toll on the acreage. Also, we are not having that much overlap this year with overseas melons, as their campaigns finished earlier, especially in the case of the Galia and Cantaloupe, whose quality has also been lower than in other years."

"Last week, we already started harvesting the earliest varieties of Galia in Murcia and this week our volumes will increase. We are betting strongly on Galia melons in Murcia, with more than 200 hectares, and we are also highly specialized in Cantaloupe cultivation. The bottom line is that the Murcian melon campaign is looking quite good," says Chema Fernández.

For more information:
Chema Fernández
Unica Fresh
T: +34 950181500
[email protected]

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