The severe drought in Brazil has led melon company Itaueira to reduce its plantings for the first time in years, but a strong season is still expected amid increased collaboration with a Dutch fruit supplier.
HillFresh first started working with Itaueira nearly two years ago, and under a new agreement it has become the exclusive partner for sales in Northern Europe, Spain and Portugal.
"This indicates that the cooperation has proven successful for both companies from the start," HillFresh marketing and communications manager Stephan Schneider told Fresh Fruit Portal.
He said the overall the outlook was positive for Fortaleza-headquartered Itaueira’s upcoming melon season.
"The expectations are great. Not so much in regards to volumes but certainly in regards to quality," he said.
Itaueira said in a statement there would be reduced volumes available this season, but highlighted it was expecting "the best quality ever."
“We are facing for the first time the necessity to reduce our production area in Brazil, as after six years of drought our farms in Ceará state are suffering from the lack of water for irrigation," the company said.
"There so, instead of 2700 hectares planted last season, we will be planting 300 hectares less, at least this year, and reducing the volumes available for our clients all over the world.
"As a compensation, our team will be working just in one farm, in Bahia state, for the whole season and the crop is responding extremely well to their focus and care. We are expecting the best quality ever in our REI melons this season.”
Itaueira's yellow melons are sold under the brands REI, CEPI and DUNORT. Schneider said only the REI melons would be supplied tot he European market this season.
He believed European consumers were becoming increasingly critical about the quality of the products they bought and he saw "big opportunities" for the fruit.
"The yellow REI melon is a ready-to-eat melon that can compete with even the best tasting yellow melons during the European season," he said.
"The challenges as always are to supply the right melons at the right time and for the right price. The melon market has seen a lot of volumes coming to the market during the winter season.
"This makes it a challenge to be a dedicated supplier for certain retailers. When prices drop it they are tempted to buy the cheapest melons."
Adriana Prado from Itaueira added HillFresh's approach to its melon category had led to confidence in taking their partnership to the next level.
"HillFresh brings the source closer to the retailer resulting in an ideal cooperation between all partners in the chain," she said.
"But this is only one of the many reasons we have selected HillFresh to be our partner for Rei melons in the European market."