The watermelon and melon campaign has already begun in Castilla-La Mancha. On July 21, the Horticultural and Cinegetic Market of Castile-La Mancha's Melon and Watermelon Price Table held its first auction setting the starting prices of a campaign in which the surface of melon and watermelon in the community has fallen by around 11%, as confirmed several weeks ago by the organization.
In the first auction, the average prices of the extra-category melon started at 28-30 cents/kilo and the average prices of the first category black and white seedless watermelon started at 35-38 cents/kilo for watermelon. In the latest session, held on August 4, prices increased to 37-40 cents/kilo for extra melon and 43-45 cents/kilo for first category white seedless watermelon. These prices still remain well behind the prices achieved in this campaign in the province of Almeria, which opened the campaign with its greenhouse fruits several months ago.
According to Asaja's balance of the 2021/22 fruit and vegetable campaign, the average price of greenhouse watermelon, whose production fell by 41.7% in this campaign, stood at 64 cents/kilo, experiencing a notable 204% increase over the previous campaign; greenhouse melon, on the other hand, decreased by 38.2% and achieved an average price of 70 cents/kilo, i.e. 159% more than in the previous campaign.
The decrease in production caused by the unusual weather in spring, which was characterized by an exceptional haze episode, also took place in Almeria's outdoor cultivation. According to estimates, production decreased by 15,000 to 20,000 kilos (it should be noted that the surface has decreased by 10%); although there has also been a rebound in prices. Asaja Almeria has reported that the outdoor watermelon reached an average price of 35 cents/kilo, positioning this campaign -in terms of prices- as one of the best harvests of recent agricultural years.
However, these attractive prices, which suggest that the surface of watermelon in the province could increase again next year, have also attracted thieves who have carried out a wave of robberies in the fields and have stolen thousands of kilos of watermelon that they sell in the informal market.
The sector must not forget that, despite the high prices of fruit this year, the fall in production will lead to a significant contraction in profits which, in turn, will be dampened by the rise in costs.
According to the sector's calculations, cost increases would amount to 30%; however, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food recently reported that the general index of prices paid for agricultural goods and services in April 2022 was 37.84% higher than in the same month of 2021 and 2.03% higher than the index of March 2022.
Official data is always public late because of how it's computed; however, inflation has continued to climb to its highest level in the past 38 years, rising to 10.8 percent in July, so it is not difficult to deduce that there's a complex scenario. Farmers will have to turn on their calculators in Almeria to adjust to the new fruit and vegetable season that will start in the province's greenhouse in a few months. But now it is the turn of the melon and watermelon campaign in Castilla-La Mancha and its evolution in the coming weeks will shed valuable light on the upcoming agricultural campaigns this year; in a scenario that will probably be more extraordinary than all previous ones, which were already filled with hard to imagine events.