An expansion in the cultivation of seedless watermelons is on the cards at Habata Agri as the farming operation assess the success of the latest season.
Having completed the harvesting of melons, Habata financial director Jurgens Steenkamp said it was certain that they would increase the acreage for cultivation next year, but they may not necessarily continue with the overseas option.
This year Habata exported 40 tonnes of watermelons a week to the United Kingdom, where it was used largely for processing purposes.
While the season started well, Steenkamp said it had not ended on such a high note, with much of their successful trading depending on the status of the rand.
“The success of the seedless watermelon exports was probably a bit below average and it did not run quite as smoothly as we would have liked,” he said.
“The exchange rate is the bottom line and if that is not in our favour, it is debatable whether we will do it again.”
Steenkamp added that if they were not getting more than they could nationally they would probably not pursue the export market.
He said they would focus on producing a bigger crop of the seedless variety for domestic consumption.
“We have enough ground, with about 20 to 30 hectares in the area at Barkly Bridge in the Sundays River Valley, so the plan is to increase from 172 hectares to 219 hectares.
“We will be trying a section in our Western Cape operation as well, which is based near Robertson. It will be a five-hectare block which will be the first for our farm.”
At this stage the Robertson operation at Le Grand Chasseur focus mainly on grapes for local consumption and wine-making.
He said there was no reason why watermelons wouldn’t do well, thanks to the dry and hot weather in the region.
“In any case, watermelons are grafted onto a pumpkin root stock, which is much more vigorous in handling different soils and diseases.”
Habata operations manager Gary Webb said growing more watermelons for the local market would assist in opportunities such as the national promotion they shared with Freshmark through Shoprite and Checkers last year.
“It will help us to ensure we have enough fruit for these sorts of promotions, which both parties are keen to do again,” he said.
He said the seedless variety remained one of the most highly rated in the world.
“In the overseas market, everything is seedless and the variety we exported was extremely crunchy, which works well for fruit salad in the UK.
“They feel our quality is better than anything else and if you can pick the seedless variety at the right stage, there is nothing to beat it for taste and texture.”