The Addo farming company first planted melons, often called spanspek in South Africa, 15 years ago and they form an integral part of their summer fruit basket, along with seedless watermelons and butternuts.
Under the watchful eye of production manager Gary Webb, the operation cultivates orange and green varieties.
“There is constant development of varieties through a trial process we follow,” he said. “The new green varieties are Spanish melons and yellow canary, while the new orange variety is called majestic.”
In season from December until the end of March, Habata supply the fruit to all major retailers in South Africa, with a large portion being produced for export.
“Around 30 to 40% of our melons are processed and exported to the European Union markets,” said Webb. “The longer shelf life they have the better tasting they are.”
Webb said the fruit had a Brix rating of 14 which placed it in the excellent category.
He added that fruits with higher Brix ratings indicated they had been grown in healthy soil with sufficient water and would provide a better flavour for the customer.
To ensure cleaner conditions for the handling of the melons Habata have revamped their packhouse, with the fruit cleaned outside before entering the facility.
“The melons are now placed on a conveyor outside the packhouse where they are sorted and cleaned before being transferred inside,” explained Webb.
“Cleaner fruit entering the packhouse ensures less dust in the building.”
He added that the yield had been good, on a par with previous seasons, and that they had harvested close to 800 000 melons a month.
“However, the season has been average to below average on price over the festive season, due to oversupply of melons from the north.
“It’s been a hot, dry season which is good for cucurbits. They are a desert plant so the weather has been favourable.”