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Counter-season melons

  • Counter-season melons

    by Market Insider

    Wednesday, 30 Mar. 2016

    The counter-season melon market has been stagnating in Europe in recent times and seems to be going through a period of uncertainty, involving production disruptions such as fluctuating exchange rates, reorganisation of the players, development of the varietal range and production techniques, climate change and competition from other products such as exotics.

    Although the supply sources are expanding, overall European imports of melons have stagnated in recent years at around 330.000 tons.

    The product is now sold year round but the trends in the melon market are difficult to be discerned: as a pleasure purchase, its consumption is first and foremost closely tied to the quality level of the product and therefore to the production climate conditions, but these may vary greatly between the production zones and the consumption centres especially during the counter-season period when the products come from South American and the Caribbean countries which are sometimes subject to severe storms.

    The market is observing a diversification of the range of varieties (Galia, yellow melon, Piel de Sapo, Honeydew etc.) which is increasing consumption on one hand but also eats the share of the traditional Cantaloup and Charentais. Overlaps between sources are also increasingly marked, with the improvement of production techniques (high-tunnels, semi-forcing tunnels, etc.) and climate change.

    Hence, while the market is now well managed over the autumn-winter period for demanding customers, the spring and the whole summer period, including early autumn, remain highly competitive with limited extra-Community imports.

    The start of the 2015-16 campaign seems to have provided firm corroboration of this state of affairs, with a difficult start for the extra-Community sources. Morocco and Brazil fell foul of consumer weariness and the increasingly late presence of the European sources exceptionally marked due to the particularly mild weather. Yet, the end of 2015 was also disappointing because of an oversupplied North European market due to the return of Brazilian volumes after a 2014-15 campaign marked by drought; this in spite of reduced tonnages, even below-normal, for other sources (Senegal, Morocco and the West Indies). In addition, the melon’s share in the end-of-year festive range, which is increasingly dominated by exotics, is diminishing. The start of 2016 was once more marked by some small-scale deferred volumes, often difficult to sell due to the drastic fall in demand after the end-of-year.

    The next stage of the campaign is also set to be a bit uncertain because of the mild weather, which brought spring productions on the market very early. The first volumes from Morocco appeared toward mid-February whereas operators, though striving to some extent for early production, want to be present later on reaching full potential in March-April. Surface areas should be increasing in Morocco but the last campaign was already difficult because of the growing supply from the Americas (Costa Rica and Honduras), shipments from the West Indies and the return to production of Senegal.

    Since the Easter holidays have been fairly early this year, the market could rapidly pick up, should spring come early too. Yet, the end of the season remains the most uncertain period. The last campaign left its mark, with inclement weather and the overlap between Moroccan and Spanish production. However the month of May is set to be a bit promising this year, in the absence of public holidays on May 1 and 8 which this year will fall on Sunday.

    The Latin American sources all are still dominating the market, representing 80% of import volumes into Europe; Brazil remains by far the main supplier to the EU (53%), ahead of Costa Rica (17%); Honduras is still back in 4th position (11%) and the Dominican Republic has consolidated its place, while Guatemala and Panama juts top up the supply for now. Israel has greatly cut back its shipments in recent years, with tonnages divided by ten in the space of five years. With a particularly complex market context, exports from Morocco dipped by just 10% in the last season (42.000 tons imported into Europe) which confirmed the source’s decreased market share in Europe to the benefit of other sources such as Senegal, which supplied nearly 12.000 tons to the Community in 2014-15.

    However, the Latin American offensive could be stepped up in the coming years, with planting already distinctly on the increase in Brazil, Honduras and Costa Rica.

    Source: Fruitrop

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