Founded in 1968 in Rodigo, Mantua, Francescon is Italy’s largest melon producer organisation, the undisputed national leader, and yet it is still able to keep its management structure strictly within the family. Francescon’s farms are mostly located in and around Mantua, but also in Agrigento, Sicily, and for the past three years in Senegal too, from where it sources its melons for the winter season.
“Our off season,” explains Margherita Avigni, head of exports for the producer organisation Francescon, “began at the end of February with the arrival of cantaloupe melons from Senegal, where we directly farm 120 hectares equating to 4000 tonnes of product. We are now in our fourth year of marketing Senegalese product in Italy and Europe: 80% goes to Italian retailers and the remainder to other countries in Europe. You could even say that we are beginning to reap the first fruits of our labour, particularly thanks to a higher price than the average for other imported melons, which is a sign that there are chains that are prepared to pay something more for a quality product.” “Our team’s experience,” Avigni concludes, “has allowed us to anticipate the calendar, meaning we can supply melons to our clients continuously from the end of February until well into October.”
The melon season in fact continues after Senegal with produce from Sicily from end-April up to end-May and afterwards from beginning of June up to mid-October with the produce from the North of Italy, precisely from the area of Rodigo (Mantua). Here in Rodigo we grow almost 2,000 hectares of which 1,000 is dedicated to melons, Cantaloupe and Galia. This year we have also started a small production of organic melon, and we are putting a large farm belonging to our group from conventional to organic crop in order to grow organic melon on large volumes. We also have the exclusivity of an excellent black-skin watermelon, probably the best on the market, with a growing program of 120 hectares; to support this new venture we built a pack house (packing line of 60 tons/hour output) dedicated to the sorting and packing operations as it is in our plans to become the leading grower of premium range watermelons in Italy for the next 3 years.