Panama's watermelon, melon production expected to drop 50% due to La Niña
Heavy rains brought on by La Niña are expected to reduce Panama’s melon and watermelon production by 50% in the 2010-11 season, according to a report by local newspaper website Prensa.com
Weather forecasts call for 20% more rain on the Pacific coast from December to March, which will require growers to reschedule planting, said Berta Olmedo, supervisor of climatology for Panamanian electric company Etesa, according to the report.
Melon and watermelons would be most affected by the rain. The start of the 2010-11 season was planned for the beginning of November, and to date, only 20 hectares have been planted in the town of Alanje, while last season, 300 hectares of melons, watermelon and squash had been planted, the website said.
The La Niña phenomenon cools the waters in the Pacific, which causes more rain. Central and southern parts of Panama on the Pacific Coast will be most affected.
In the Azuero region, on the Pacific Coast, the planting of melon and watermelon is late due to rain. Exporters are planning to grow between 2,000 and 2,300 hectares, 50% less than last cycle.
Contraction in the markets and the delay in obtaining financing for planting are other factors that have brought on the diminished planting for this cycle, said Edwin Pérez, president of a trade group for non-traditional exports, Gantrap, according to the website.
The agriculture sector nationally generates US $100 million with the main crops being watermelons, melons, pineapple and vegetables.
Emilio Kieswetter, minister of agricultural development, recommends that growers of tomatoes, melons, watermelons and squash refrain from planting if the weather is unfavorable, or else they could lose millions. They should change the planting schedule or grow crops that require a lot of water, such as rice or bananas, he said, according to the website.