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Surge in cantaloupe sales in the US

Driven by a nearly 57% increase in the number of cantaloupes sold, overall retail sales of melons in the United States grew 8% year-on-year in volume in the 52 weeks to May 28 to reach over 2.2 billion.

Driven by a nearly 57% increase in the number of cantaloupes sold, overall retail sales of melons in the United States grew 8% year-on-year in volume in the 52 weeks to May 28 to reach over 2.2 billion pounds.

But against this backdrop, Nielsen data also shows that the spend on the melon category nevertheless went the other way, slipping 0.3% over the same period, though staying above the $1.12 billion mark.

Within the category it is the watermelon that generated the vast majority – nearly 81% –  of melon sales, though just over 63% of the category’s overall value. Compared to the previous year, watermelon sales in the US were up 2% in volume, to over 1.77 billion pounds, but 0.2% was shaved off last year’s spend.

Meanwhile, cantaloupe sales increased 56.7% to the to the tune of 357 million pounds but despite such a robust upswing they too went the other way when it came to value, drifting down 0.2% to $708.6 million. Cantaloupe held a 29% share of the total melon spend off just a 16% share of the total volume sold.

The honeydew melon went the other way as the watermelon and cantaloupe, in the sense that the sales volume inched down – by 1.6%, though staying above 58 million pounds – while the spend rose, gaining 4.7% to reach $74 million.

Specialty melons showed the strongest dollar growth and they alone logged gains in both value and volume on last year, but this sub-category accounts for only a very small slice of melon sales in either value (1.92%) or volume (under 0.5%). Specifically, specialty melon sales rose 10.2% in volume to under 10.6 million pounds and 9.7% in spend to $13.6 million.

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Melons: a lucrative staple of EU fruit trade

Total melon imports within the European Union, including watermelon and papayas, last year reached a value of €1 billion and a volume of 1.7 million tons

Total melon imports within the European Union, including watermelon and papayas, last year reached a value of €1 billion and a volume of 1.7 million tons

The value of watermelon imports in the EU last year – €485.78 million – was almost equal to the €489.93 million total for imports of all other melon types combined. But the 1.09 million ton volume of watermelons imported was almost double that of the 599,339 tons total for all other other melons, revealing a considerable difference in value. While overall the melon trade remains mostly within the EU, for watermelons it is more mixed, with imports and exports to non-EU countries as well. In 2015, the perfect combination of weather, supply and consumption occurred in June and July, keeping prices and sales volumes high.

The market is becoming more EU-focused

Compared to 2014, European melon production and imports were lower in 2015, which allowed for a quite stable market and a slight rise in prices. Companies have released many innovations in the melon category, such as seedless or mini-varieties, packaging and in ready-to-eat products. Such innovations are important for the European market. The most important drivers for melons consumption are taste and convenience. According to a CBI (Confederation of British Industry) report, the EU imported 1.2 million tons of watermelons and 1 million tons of other melon varieties in 2014.

Developing countries the top suppliers

Within the EU, Spain is by far the largest melon exporter (especially watermelon), followed by Greece and Italy. France and Italy specialise in other melon varieties. However, every year extra-EU supplies from developing countries are increasing, especially from Costa Rica, Morocco, Brazil, Panama and Turkey. While most of the EU’s melons are sourced and sold within the EU, those from non-EU countries traded at higher prices in 2015. This is illustrated by the fact that imports from outside the EU represented 37% of the volume of melon sales in the EU yet a higher 49% of the value.

The EU’s main melon importers are Germany, France and the UK, which together account for 75% of total EU melon imports. Germany imported 475,251 tons of melons for a total value of €299.3 million, France imported a total volume of 257,697 tons for a value €164.6 million and the UK 136,480 tons for €82.8 million. About 70% of the EU’s melon trade takes place in summer. For instance, of the 482,264 tons of melons imported into the EU last year, 30% took place in July.

An extended peak season

Intra-EU imports of melons reached 599,339 tons in 2015 for a total value of €489.94 million. The main melon importers within the EU are Germany and France, for respective values of €106.8 million and €102.47 million. Extra-EU imports totalled 330,060 tons. The vast bulk of trade in melons take place over 3-4 months, with the peak period starting in late May and the last big volume of imports in September.

Watermelon

Intra-EU imports of watermelon reached 1.09 million tons in 2015. The biggest watermelon importer inside the EU is Germany, which represents almost 50% of total intra-EU imports (€178.2 million).

July is the peak season by far for the watermelon trade (over 350,000 tons for intra-EU ). Extra-EU imports totalled 260,001 tons (47% of intra-EU imports).

SM

Watermelon image thanks to stux via Pixabay (CC0 Public Domain)

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Francescon boosts off-season production in Senegal

Francescon’s off-season began at the end of February with the arrival of cantaloupe melons from Senegal, where it directly farms 120 ha, equating to 4,000 tons of product.

While the melon season is still a long way off in the Northern Hemisphere, in other parts of the world it is already in full swing due to more favourable climate conditions, allowing the Italian market to be supplied even during the off season.

Margherita Avigni, head of exports for the producer organisation Francescon, said its off-season began at the end of February with the arrival of cantaloupe melons from Senegal, where it directly farms 120 ha, equating to 4,000 tons 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,” Avigni said.

Francescon guarantees this quality using the know-how it has amassed in its over 30 years of experience of bi-weekly transportation, by sea for the most part but also by air. “After two years of sales, the Senegalese product, which conforms to the technical profile and is managed by our own team, has already permitted significant increases in yield per hectare. We have also made use of our know-how to increase the local workforce, thus optimising our working method with regards to Fair Trade practice.”

And it hasn’t taken long for this labour to bear fruit: “Our team’s experience 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,” Avigni said.

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.

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UK market sweet on honeydew, galia melons

Melon sales in the UK retail sector were up 6.2% in volume and 4.9% in value for the 52 weeks to March 29, Kantar Worldpanel data shows.

Melon sales in the UK retail sector were up 6.2% in volume and 4.9% in value for the 52 weeks to March 29, Kantar Worldpanel data shows.

Altogether 134,402 tons of melons were sold, for a total spend of nearly £135 million (€187m), with honeydew/yellow and Galia accounting for nearly 62% of that value. Honeydew/yellow sales were up 6.3% in volume and 4.1% in value on the previous 52 weeks, and Galia 4.3% for both.

But the biggest percentage change was seen for watermelon, Piel de Sapo and Charentais melons. Watermelon – which accounted for just under a sixth of the total melon spend – enjoyed growth of 13.4% in value year-on-year and 14% in volume (to 30,570 tons).

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Piel de Sapo gained almost 11% in value and 12.3% in volume (to 5,297 tons) and the specialty melon Charentais leapt up 190% in value and 171% in volume but off a much smaller base – 251 tons sold for the year to March 29.

Cantaloupe sales slipped 1.6% in value and by the same amount in volume, to 13,054 tons.

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Patent for Syngenta melons that stay on vine longer

New melon plants whose fruit stays on the vine longer are the subject of a new patent for Syngenta Participations AG.

Melon plants with fruit that stays on the vine longer are the subject of a new patent for Syngenta Participations AG.

The melons produced have high total solids and/or firm flesh, the Swiss agri-business also says in patent documents published by the US Patent and Trademark Office under the title: “Inbred melon lines ME007 and ME009.“

Explaining the background to the invention, Syngenta said many cantaloupe varieties are climacteric, meaning ripening is associated with ethylene production, resulting in abscission (‘slip’) from the vine. “Climacteric fruits may abscise from the vine prior to optimal sugar deposition, which may adversely impact taste. Accordingly, it would be desirable to develop improved melon plants having improved taste, shelf life and/or shipping characteristics,” it said.

In a summary of the invention, Syngenta said that in representative embodiments, its invention provides “novel non-climacteric melon plants that produce fruit that are able to remain on the vine longer (i.e., they do not abscise or “slip” from the vine) than a climacteric melon, which may result in improved taste and/or sweetness.”

It also talked about representative embodiments where “the melon plants of the invention are characterized by two or more of these characteristics: non-climacteric fruit ripening, a fruit having a firm flesh and/or a fruit having high soluble solids.”

And it said that in further exemplary embodiments, “the melon plants of the invention are characterized by fruit having an enhanced sugar (e.g., sucrose) content and/or a sweeter taste and/or having a longer field shelf life and/or post-harvest shelf life.“

The patent was granted last November 4. Read about it here by clicking on ‘full text’.
 

Photo: a conventional melon and slice by Renee Comet via Wikimedia Commons.