Blog Archives

U.S.: Stable start for Chilean orange season despite higher volume

While recent reports suggest quality problems have set back pricing for Chilean lemons and easy peelers, the first weeks of the season showed a strong footing for the country’s oranges in the U.S.

According to figures from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Chilean orange prices stood at US$ 22/15kg (33lbs) box last week, which is similar to the level they were at for the same period in 2015.

South African orange prices were also within the historic two-year average at US$ 24/15kg (33lbs) box.

Chilean orange shipments started in June and until the first week of July they reached 7,483 metric tons (MT), representing a rise of 11% year-on-year, according to Chilean statistics agency Odepa.

As has been the trend at this time of year, the U.S. has accounted for 85% of Chile’s shipments.

In 2015, Chile finished the orange season with 69,170MT exported, recovering from a low of 57,445MT in 2014.

In terms of easy peelers, a representative from the Chilean Citrus Committee has told the local press there has been a lot of fruit with seeds this year due to cross-pollination.

Photo: www.shutterstock.com

www.freshfruitportal.com

FreshFruitPortal.com

Spain: Start of Valencian kaki campaign with 11% higher production

Spain: Start of Valencian kaki campaign with 11% higher production

The president of the Regulatory Board, Cirilo Arnandis, said Monday that the kaki harvest this season is expected to reach approximately 80,000 tonnes, with “high quality and good calibres.” This is 8,000 tonnes more than last season.

Arnandis highlighted how the success of kakis is the result of hard work and effort in the entire sector, as well as support from the regional and national administrations. “We have managed to turn kakis into a flagship product,” he stressed.

The campaign will primarily focus on consumers, aiming for them to recognise the fruit with the PDO Ribera del Xuquer “as a kaki that guarantees flavour, quality and food safety,” and that only PDO-certified fruit can be marketed under the Persimon label. 

In addition to promotions at domestic level, Arnandis said that such campaigns will also be carried out, with help from ICEX, in Germany, the UK and Canada. There will also be a EU-funded campaign in France. Total investments in promotion for this season exceeded one million Euro. 

Moreover, the president of the Regulatory Board stated that while hailstorms have affected the production in some places of the region, this will be of “equal or slightly higher quality than last year, although taking into account that not all demand could be covered last season. “This campaign there will be a decline in demand as a result of the closure of the Russian market, although there is enough demand from other markets to absorb all supply,” he explained.

Source: eleconomista.es

Publication date: 10/9/2014


FreshPlaza.com

US (WA): Higher pear volumes met with strong demand

Washington’s pear crop will likely be larger than what was anticipated at the beginning of the season. As growers move into the latter part of the season, they’re finding consumer demand this year to be good.

“Demand has been pretty great,” said Sky Johnson of Borton Fruit. “Volume estimates this year have increased this season, and we see that with the amount of Bartletts we’re moving this year.” Early estimates put this year’s Washington pear crop at 18.7 million boxes, but the estimate was updated to 20.2 million boxes once harvesting was underway. Though that would put production below last year’s crop, it’s still slightly above the five-year average for the state. Part of the reason for good yields this year has been good weather, which has also helped with quality.

“With the good weather, we’re seeing great sugar in the fruit,” said Johnson. “Sizing has also been on the larger side.” With good quality and strong demand, prices have also been good.

“Pricing has been relatively strong,” said Johnson. “We have been very happy with where prices have been.” At the end of last week, prices were mostly between $ 24.00 and $ 26.00 for a carton of Bartlett pears, while Anjou pears commanded higher prices, mostly between $ 26.00 and $ 30.00 per carton.

For more information:

Sky Johnson

Borton Fruit

+1 509 966 3905

FreshPlaza.com

US (WA): Higher pear volumes met with strong demand

Washington’s pear crop will likely be larger than what was anticipated at the beginning of the season. As growers move into the latter part of the season, they’re finding consumer demand this year to be good.

“Demand has been pretty great,” said Sky Johnson of Borton Fruit. “Volume estimates this year have increased this season, and we see that with the amount of Bartletts we’re moving this year.” Early estimates put this year’s Washington pear crop at 18.7 million boxes, but the estimate was updated to 20.2 million boxes once harvesting was underway. Though that would put production below last year’s crop, it’s still slightly above the five-year average for the state. Part of the reason for good yields this year has been good weather, which has also helped with quality.

“With the good weather, we’re seeing great sugar in the fruit,” said Johnson. “Sizing has also been on the larger side.” With good quality and strong demand, prices have also been good.

“Pricing has been relatively strong,” said Johnson. “We have been very happy with where prices have been.” At the end of last week, prices were mostly between $ 24.00 and $ 26.00 for a carton of Bartlett pears, while Anjou pears commanded higher prices, mostly between $ 26.00 and $ 30.00 per carton.

For more information:

Sky Johnson

Borton Fruit

+1 509 966 3905

FreshPlaza.com

US (CA): Short strawberry market leads to higher prices

Supplies of strawberries out of California have been hampered by weather effects from earlier in the season. With less fruit, prices for berries have risen.

“Prices are currently reflective of a short market,” noted Cindy Jewell of California Giant Berry Farms. “Prices are higher than usual, which is good for the grower but probably not for the consumer.” By the end of last week, prices for a flat of berries were as high as $ 16.00 for some sizes. The short market is partly due to weather from earlier in the season and partly due to the transition to fall supplies.

“The season started earlier because of mild conditions,” explained Jewell. “We’re farther along with plants than usual. We also had some issues with labour during the middle of summer, so some guys pulled out of the fresh deal earlier than normal.” Barring heavy rain that cuts the season short, supplies are expected to go into November. As the season progresses, however, supplies will continue to diminish.

“You have days getting shorter, so volumes will diminish in California,” said Jewell. “There are still a lot of factors working against increases in volume.”

For more information:

Cindy Jewell

California Giant Berry Farms

+1 831 728 1965

FreshPlaza.com

Israel: Fig demand this year higher than anticipated

Israel: Fig demand this year higher than anticipated

For the Israeli company Avniv Israel, the fig campaign is divided in two stages, with the first starting in May and going on with a continuous harvest at several locations until August, “when we normally stop due to the start of the Turkish season and also because we cannot compete with the domestic production in destinations like Italy, Spain or France,” explains Niva Ben Zion, founder and CEO of the firm.

After the Turkish season is over, around October, Avniv Israel kicks off the autumn-winter campaign, with a variety that is harvested between October and January, depending on weather conditions. “The last winter campaign was a bit of a disaster, as Israel had a lot of rain in December, as well as some snow and hail. This year, so far, we have had a very nice season with high levels of demand, despite some small temporary difficulties with supply that drove prices down,” says Mrs Ben Zion.

In terms of volumes, the company this season has exported around 20% more than last year, while Israel’s shipments as a whole have remained stable. Demand has also been higher than anticipated. Niva Ben Zion explains that “I work with some pretty big growers, and I will only take more when I know I have programmes to support them with. This year I literally needed much more than I had due to the great levels of demand.”

Avniv Israel also offers pitahaya, whose season normally starts around July-August. According to Mrs Ben Zion, “pitahaya is a tricky business, as it is very unpredictable when it comes to the timespan between pollination and harvest. Supply volumes are also unstable, because they work in cycles (or waves). The season is like a rocking chair. This year there may be additional issues, as the war is taking place close to the main production areas.”

Regarding the next fig season, the company expects a very good campaign throughout the winter, “as in that period we will have a large production and very few competitors. Brazil will also be in the market, although supermarkets & some importers tend to prefer the Israeli produce, which is usually considered to be safer, as our figs are produced naturally and contain no residues,” concludes Niva Ben Zion.

For more information:
Niva Ben Zion
Avniv
Tel: +972-2-9941047
Fax:+972-2-9941374
Mobile: +972-52-4399800
Sales: [email protected]

Publication date: 7/30/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Israel: Fig demand this year higher than anticipated

Israel: Fig demand this year higher than anticipated

For the Israeli company Avniv Israel, the fig campaign is divided in two stages, with the first starting in May and going on with a continuous harvest at several locations until August, “when we normally stop due to the start of the Turkish season and also because we cannot compete with the domestic production in destinations like Italy, Spain or France,” explains Niva Ben Zion, founder and CEO of the firm.

After the Turkish season is over, around October, Avniv Israel kicks off the autumn-winter campaign, with a variety that is harvested between October and January, depending on weather conditions. “The last winter campaign was a bit of a disaster, as Israel had a lot of rain in December, as well as some snow and hail. This year, so far, we have had a very nice season with high levels of demand, despite some small temporary difficulties with supply that drove prices down,” says Mrs Ben Zion.

In terms of volumes, the company this season has exported around 20% more than last year, while Israel’s shipments as a whole have remained stable. Demand has also been higher than anticipated. Niva Ben Zion explains that “I work with some pretty big growers, and I will only take more when I know I have programmes to support them with. This year I literally needed much more than I had due to the great levels of demand.”

Avniv Israel also offers pitahaya, whose season normally starts around July-August. According to Mrs Ben Zion, “pitahaya is a tricky business, as it is very unpredictable when it comes to the timespan between pollination and harvest. Supply volumes are also unstable, because they work in cycles (or waves). The season is like a rocking chair. This year there may be additional issues, as the war is taking place close to the main production areas.”

Regarding the next fig season, the company expects a very good campaign throughout the winter, “as in that period we will have a large production and very few competitors. Brazil will also be in the market, although supermarkets & some importers tend to prefer the Israeli produce, which is usually considered to be safer, as our figs are produced naturally and contain no residues,” concludes Niva Ben Zion.

For more information:
Niva Ben Zion
Avniv
Tel: +972-2-9941047
Fax:+972-2-9941374
Mobile: +972-52-4399800
Sales: [email protected]

Publication date: 7/30/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Israel: Fig demand this year higher than anticipated

Israel: Fig demand this year higher than anticipated

For the Israeli company Avniv Israel, the fig campaign is divided in two stages, with the first starting in May and going on with a continuous harvest at several locations until August, “when we normally stop due to the start of the Turkish season and also because we cannot compete with the domestic production in destinations like Italy, Spain or France,” explains Niva Ben Zion, founder and CEO of the firm.

After the Turkish season is over, around October, Avniv Israel kicks off the autumn-winter campaign, with a variety that is harvested between October and January, depending on weather conditions. “The last winter campaign was a bit of a disaster, as Israel had a lot of rain in December, as well as some snow and hail. This year, so far, we have had a very nice season with high levels of demand, despite some small temporary difficulties with supply that drove prices down,” says Mrs Ben Zion.

In terms of volumes, the company this season has exported around 20% more than last year, while Israel’s shipments as a whole have remained stable. Demand has also been higher than anticipated. Niva Ben Zion explains that “I work with some pretty big growers, and I will only take more when I know I have programmes to support them with. This year I literally needed much more than I had due to the great levels of demand.”

Avniv Israel also offers pitahaya, whose season normally starts around July-August. According to Mrs Ben Zion, “pitahaya is a tricky business, as it is very unpredictable when it comes to the timespan between pollination and harvest. Supply volumes are also unstable, because they work in cycles (or waves). The season is like a rocking chair. This year there may be additional issues, as the war is taking place close to the main production areas.”

Regarding the next fig season, the company expects a very good campaign throughout the winter, “as in that period we will have a large production and very few competitors. Brazil will also be in the market, although supermarkets & some importers tend to prefer the Israeli produce, which is usually considered to be safer, as our figs are produced naturally and contain no residues,” concludes Niva Ben Zion.

For more information:
Niva Ben Zion
Avniv
Tel: +972-2-9941047
Fax:+972-2-9941374
Mobile: +972-52-4399800
Sales: [email protected]

Publication date: 7/30/2014


FreshPlaza.com

French cherry production 31% higher than 2013

French cherry production 31% higher than 2013

Cherry production is clearly higher than in 2013, up 31% compared to 2013 on the 1st July and up 20% compared to the 5 year average.  End of commercialisation is difficult with average prices down 5% compared to the 2009-2013 averages in June.  

2014 production is expected to be higher than last year.  The Minister of Agriculure’s SSP (Service of Statistics and Forecasts)  estimates cherry production to be 31% higher than in 2013.  2012 and 2013 were the weakest of the last decade.


In the Rhone-Alpes, harvest of the late varieties is approaching with an important production this year.  Fruit was of small to average calibre this year due to over-charged trees.  At the end of the season lots of fruit will be left on the trees due to low sales.  Treatment against Suzukii flies continues. Flowering occurred under favourable climate conditions. 

In the PACA region acreage has diminished with producers turning to other productions, notably vines.  Stormy weather led to some loss, yet yield remains higher than in 2013.

Harvest is almost over in the Languedoc-Roussillon, lack of rain means that harvest was carried out without fruit being damaged.  Early varieties were of small size  Some operators held back on picking small calibers amongst the later varieties in order to commercialise bigger sizes.  Production was slightly better than last forecast. 

Trees were heavy with fruit at the start of the season in the Midi-Pyrénées. Harvest was back to normal following the last few weak production years. Climate conditions did not have a high impact on production.  

The market was difficult at the end of the season.  The 2014 sales campaign began in the Roussillon at the start of May.  At first the market was rather saturated, but a lack of Burlat production and rain affecting harvest meant that it cleared at the end of May.  Interregional competition and other seasonal fruits, mainly strawberries, were competition for the smaller calibers.  Prices over the month were on average close to the 2009-2013 average (-2%). Demand at the end of the month dropped due to competition from other stone fruit.  Harvest slowed down, the market is difficult and prices are 5% lower than the 2009-2013 average.


This cherry report was based on 4 regions:  

Midi-Pyrénées : 4% of national production in 2013.  

Languedoc-Roussillon :  13% of national production in 2013.

Provence-Alpes-Cote-d’Azur :  44% of national production in 2013.  

Rhone-Alpes :  27% of national production in 2013.  

All of these regions represent 88% of national production in 2013.  


Publication date: 7/16/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Venture with large Costa Rican pineapple grower for higher quality in US

Venture with large Costa Rican pineapple grower for higher quality in US

Ayco has entered into a pineapple venture with one of the largest pineapple growers in Costa Rica. While the grower has previously only provided product of the highest standard to Europe, these pineapples are now available in the U.S. under the Ayco brand. “Our pineapple program is based on year-round supply, contracts and promotional volume for retailers and the foodservice industry,” reports Avi Nir, Ayco CEO. “Additionally, our pineapples have a guaranteed brix of no less than 13 percent. Ayco stands behind this quality commitment.”

Ayco foresees increasing potential with pineapples, as health attributes of the product become increasingly known. “Reports show multiple benefits of pineapples and this is a great marketing opportunity for retail,” says Nir. “Studies indicate pineapples aid digestive problems, boost the immune system, stave off vision loss, and contain beneficial fibre and Vitamin C. Our new pineapple program allows us to provide consistent value to our customers and give them a remarkable product to promote.”

In 2013, Ayco established a logistics company allowing the company to diversify and add value to the Ayco organization. “Ayco’s new pineapple program is a result of our logistics advantages,” explains Nir. “Presently, Ayco transports the entire pineapple supply to our distribution centre in Florida but we have the ability to set up programs to other locations.”

Ayco’s pineapples out of Costa Rica meet the highest standards including traceability and Rainforest Alliance. “Our assurance to our customers is to provide the sweetest, highest quality pineapples,” says Nir. “We encourage retailers to ask for a sampling. Our pineapples are superior product – not something seen every day on retail shelves.”

For more information:
Peter Warren
Ayco Farms
Tel: +1 954-788-6800
Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 5/14/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Higher costs sink Loblaw Q1 earnings

Costs associated with the acquisition of the Shoppers Drug Mart chain triggered a 39.8% decline in quarterly net earnings, while sales inched up moderately amid intense competition, Loblaw Cos. said Wednesday.


CONNECT WITH SN ON TWITTER

Follow @SN_News for updates throughout the day.


For the fiscal first quarter ended March 22, the Brampton, Ont.-based retailer reported sales of $ 6.7 billion (U.S.), a 1.2% increase over the same period in 2013, with same-store sales increasing by 0.9%. Adjusted for the timing of the Easter holiday, same-store sales increased by 1.1%, Loblaw said.

Net income of $ 94 million (U.S.) declined as a result of higher costs including expenses associated with closing the deal to acquire Shopper Drug Mart, which occurred during the quarter. Income was also negatively affected by higher benefit plan costs, administrative costs associated with its Choice Properties Trust real-estate division, and higher fixed costs, the company said.

“The first quarter of 2014 marked another quarter of steady progress in our core business,” Galen G. Weston, executive chairman, said in a statement. “We remained focused on balancing our commitment to competitiveness and financial performance, achieving positive same-store sales and growing adjusted operating income. While the industry backdrop continues to be challenging with the intensely competitive market environment and the continued impact of drug reform, we still expect to advance our combined business both financially and operationally this year.”

Suggested Categories More from Supermarketnews

Supermarket News

Higher costs sink Loblaw Q1 earnings

Costs associated with the acquisition of the Shoppers Drug Mart chain triggered a 39.8% decline in quarterly net earnings, while sales inched up moderately amid intense competition, Loblaw Cos. said Wednesday.


CONNECT WITH SN ON TWITTER

Follow @SN_News for updates throughout the day.


For the fiscal first quarter ended March 22, the Brampton, Ont.-based retailer reported sales of $ 6.7 billion (U.S.), a 1.2% increase over the same period in 2013, with same-store sales increasing by 0.9%. Adjusted for the timing of the Easter holiday, same-store sales increased by 1.1%, Loblaw said.

Net income of $ 94 million (U.S.) declined as a result of higher costs including expenses associated with closing the deal to acquire Shopper Drug Mart, which occurred during the quarter. Income was also negatively affected by higher benefit plan costs, administrative costs associated with its Choice Properties Trust real-estate division, and higher fixed costs, the company said.

“The first quarter of 2014 marked another quarter of steady progress in our core business,” Galen G. Weston, executive chairman, said in a statement. “We remained focused on balancing our commitment to competitiveness and financial performance, achieving positive same-store sales and growing adjusted operating income. While the industry backdrop continues to be challenging with the intensely competitive market environment and the continued impact of drug reform, we still expect to advance our combined business both financially and operationally this year.”

Suggested Categories More from Supermarketnews

Supermarket News

April watermelon movement higher than last season

On April 8, the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported on daily shipments and crossings in the United States for watermelons for the first week of April. The report broke down movement for seeded and seedless watermelon and also provided some data on imports. Units are comprised of a total of 40,000 pounds each.

This season, a total of 7,154 units were imported into the United States through ports in Arizona, Texas, Mississippi, California, Delaware and Florida.CrosdfpOVThis season, a total of 7,154 units of watermelon were imported into the United States through ports in Arizona, Texas, Mississippi, California, Delaware and Florida. Countries exporting watermelons to the United States were Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. This figure compares to 7,555 units imported at the same time last season. Of this total, 30 units were during the first week of April. This volume represents an increase over the 16 units moved during the same time frame in 2013.

AMS reported 74 units of seeded watermelons entered the United States at Nogales, AZ, during the first week of April. Guatemala exported 94 containers of seedless watermelons during the first week of April. Volume of seedless watermelons from Honduras was 94 units, and Mexico exported 9,699 units for that same week.

Florida districts had moved 49 units of seeded watermelons by truck as of April 7, surpassing the 15 units moved from Florida at the same time during 2013. Florida also moved another 107 units of seedless watermelons, an increase over the 55 units moved at the same time in 2013.

Weather has been a factor during the 2014 domestic growing season. Matt Solana, vice president of operations/supply chain with Jackson Farming Co., said rainy conditions made it difficult for growers to get into the field and get soil prepared in North Florida and Georgia.

Jackson Farming expected production to begin in Sarasota, FL, at the beginning of May. Production in McAlpin, FL was anticipated to begin in June. Soldana said retailers could expect good volume for the July 4 holiday coming from Florida and Georgia.  Watermelons are also produced in Autryville, NC, with production beginning around July 4 and running through September.

If dry, sunny days are coupled with some occasional rain showers, Soldana expects a good season in 2014.

The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center provided some historic data about the dynamics of watermelon production during 2012. “U.S. watermelon production in 2012 totaled more than 39 million hundredweight, up from 2011,” the center stated. “The value of fresh market watermelons that year was nearly $ 520.8 billion, also up from the previous year.”

According to AgMRC, Florida and Georgia led in domestic production followed by California and Texas.

Most watermelon is consumed fresh, and AgMRC noted that per capita consumption was 15.5 pounds in 2010. “About 85 percent of watermelons are purchased at the retail level for home consumption,” the center stated in its report. “Other processed products include roasted seeds, pickled rind and watermelon juice.”

On June 28, 2012, USDA’s Economic Research Service issued its Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook, further discussing production and consumption trends. According to ERS, the United States ranked fifth among the world’s top watermelon producers. “Over the past 10 years, watermelon was consistently the third-most-produced [commodity] by weight for the fresh market in the United States, behind onions and head lettuce,” the report stated. “Between 1990 and 2010, while the number of acres harvested contracted 3.5 percent, production rose 29 percent to a record high of 4.1 billion pounds.”

Data concerning seeded vs. seedless varieties is revealing. “In the past decade, the share of seedless watermelon of total U.S. watermelon shipments jumped from 51 percent in 2003 to 83 percent in 2011,” the report stated. “Rising demand for watermelon has been mostly due to the production of varieties that are seedless or are smaller in size combined with increased marketing of pre-cut half or quarter-melons, offering value-added convenience to consumers.”

And consumers are becoming increasingly familiar with the nutritional qualities associated with watermelon consumption. “As watermelon is 92 percent water, many people eat it to help quench their thirst,” ERS wrote. “Watermelon juice is even now available at some retailers. Lycopene, found in other produce such as tomatoes, is present in watermelon at higher concentrations than any other fruit or vegetable and is believed to reduce the risk for heart disease and some cancers.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

April watermelon movement higher than last season

On April 8, the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported on daily shipments and crossings in the United States for watermelons for the first week of April. The report broke down movement for seeded and seedless watermelon and also provided some data on imports. Units are comprised of a total of 40,000 pounds each.

This season, a total of 7,154 units were imported into the United States through ports in Arizona, Texas, Mississippi, California, Delaware and Florida.CrosdfpOVThis season, a total of 7,154 units of watermelon were imported into the United States through ports in Arizona, Texas, Mississippi, California, Delaware and Florida. Countries exporting watermelons to the United States were Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. This figure compares to 7,555 units imported at the same time last season. Of this total, 30 units were during the first week of April. This volume represents an increase over the 16 units moved during the same time frame in 2013.

AMS reported 74 units of seeded watermelons entered the United States at Nogales, AZ, during the first week of April. Guatemala exported 94 containers of seedless watermelons during the first week of April. Volume of seedless watermelons from Honduras was 94 units, and Mexico exported 9,699 units for that same week.

Florida districts had moved 49 units of seeded watermelons by truck as of April 7, surpassing the 15 units moved from Florida at the same time during 2013. Florida also moved another 107 units of seedless watermelons, an increase over the 55 units moved at the same time in 2013.

Weather has been a factor during the 2014 domestic growing season. Matt Solana, vice president of operations/supply chain with Jackson Farming Co., said rainy conditions made it difficult for growers to get into the field and get soil prepared in North Florida and Georgia.

Jackson Farming expected production to begin in Sarasota, FL, at the beginning of May. Production in McAlpin, FL was anticipated to begin in June. Soldana said retailers could expect good volume for the July 4 holiday coming from Florida and Georgia.  Watermelons are also produced in Autryville, NC, with production beginning around July 4 and running through September.

If dry, sunny days are coupled with some occasional rain showers, Soldana expects a good season in 2014.

The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center provided some historic data about the dynamics of watermelon production during 2012. “U.S. watermelon production in 2012 totaled more than 39 million hundredweight, up from 2011,” the center stated. “The value of fresh market watermelons that year was nearly $ 520.8 billion, also up from the previous year.”

According to AgMRC, Florida and Georgia led in domestic production followed by California and Texas.

Most watermelon is consumed fresh, and AgMRC noted that per capita consumption was 15.5 pounds in 2010. “About 85 percent of watermelons are purchased at the retail level for home consumption,” the center stated in its report. “Other processed products include roasted seeds, pickled rind and watermelon juice.”

On June 28, 2012, USDA’s Economic Research Service issued its Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook, further discussing production and consumption trends. According to ERS, the United States ranked fifth among the world’s top watermelon producers. “Over the past 10 years, watermelon was consistently the third-most-produced [commodity] by weight for the fresh market in the United States, behind onions and head lettuce,” the report stated. “Between 1990 and 2010, while the number of acres harvested contracted 3.5 percent, production rose 29 percent to a record high of 4.1 billion pounds.”

Data concerning seeded vs. seedless varieties is revealing. “In the past decade, the share of seedless watermelon of total U.S. watermelon shipments jumped from 51 percent in 2003 to 83 percent in 2011,” the report stated. “Rising demand for watermelon has been mostly due to the production of varieties that are seedless or are smaller in size combined with increased marketing of pre-cut half or quarter-melons, offering value-added convenience to consumers.”

And consumers are becoming increasingly familiar with the nutritional qualities associated with watermelon consumption. “As watermelon is 92 percent water, many people eat it to help quench their thirst,” ERS wrote. “Watermelon juice is even now available at some retailers. Lycopene, found in other produce such as tomatoes, is present in watermelon at higher concentrations than any other fruit or vegetable and is believed to reduce the risk for heart disease and some cancers.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Fertilizer in small doses yields higher returns for less money

Crop yields in the fragile semi-arid areas of Zimbabwe have been declining over time due to a decline in soil fertility resulting from mono-cropping, lack of fertilizer, and other factors. In collaboration with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), University of Illinois researchers evaluated the use of a precision farming technique called “microdosing,” its effect on food security, and its ability to improve yield at a low cost to farmers.

“Microdosing involves applying a small, affordable amount of fertilizer with the seed at planting time or as top dressing three to four weeks after emergence,” explained U of I agricultural economist Alex Winter-Nelson. “So, instead of spreading fertilizer over the entire field, microdosing uses fertilizer more efficiently and ultimately improves productivity. Our research shows that smallholder farmers’ investment in microdosing has really unlocked the power of chemical fertilizers in some of the low-rainfall areas of Zimbabwe.”

Training is the key to adoption of the technique. “About 75 percent of households receiving microdosing training used fertilizer in 2011,” said Winter-Nelson. “This compares to less than 25 percent of households that had not received training. Another way of looking at it is that training in microdosing raised the probability of adoption by 30 to 35 percentage points. Knowledge of microdosing changed people’s attitudes about fertilizer. Those who had training generally disagreed with the common notion that fertilizer is not worth its price or that it burns crops.”

Winter-Nelson said that there are some hurdles to overcome, however. “Sustaining and expanding the benefits of microdosing technology will require efforts to ensure that private agrodealers are able to stock the product in a timely manner and to package it in a manner that smallholder farmers find useful,” he said. “This is complicated by the financial capacities of agrodealers and by difficulty in projecting fertilizer demand, which varies with rainfall.

“We also need to work on extending training to underserved areas and to train extension personnel in low-rainfall areas,” he said. “Female-headed households were significantly less likely to adopt microdosing than others, possibly reflecting labor shortages or difficulties accessing fertilizer. Understanding the particular constraints that female farmers face and adapting the methods or the training to their circumstances could also help extend adoption of the technique.”

The research data were collected via a structured household survey in eight districts in semi-arid areas with additional information about fertilizer availability and demand from key informant interviews with local extension service providers, non-governmental organizations, and agrodealers. Focus group discussions were also utilized. The household survey included questions about assets, cropping patterns, agricultural production, training in microdosing, extension techniques, and fertilizer use and adoption, with particular attention paid to management practices and output on cereal plots two previous cropping seasons.

“What was particularly encouraging from the data is that, when comparing the costs of research, development, and promotion of microdosing in Zimbabwe to the gains achieved through a 30 percent adoption rate and an estimated productivity effect, the data suggest an internal rate of return on the investment in microdosing of over 40 percent,” Winter-Nelson said. “And that’s a good motivation to continue to try to get more farmers in Zimbabwe to try microdosing.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily