Supplying the overseas market with at least 40 tonnes a week, Habata Agri are exceeding expectations as their crops of seedless watermelons continue to thrive in dry, hot conditions.
Faced with a basic demand of two containers a week, Habata operations manager Gary Webb said they were comfortably reaching the target due to their high production.
“Some weeks we are able to provide them with three containers because of the level of our production, so we are over-achieving in a sense,” he said.
With the average watermelon weighing about six to eight kilograms, Habata export two containers of 20 tonnes each on a weekly basis for British retail outlets.
The demand is particularly high for the seedless variety known as Crisp Delight, which has been developed for overseas consumption.
“Nicknamed the brick, it is a very firm watermelon which has a longer long shelf life than your average variety,” said Webb. “It sits on the ship for 23 days, and sometimes even a bit longer.”
He said the watermelons were delivered to a processing company, which cut up the fruit, preparing it for sale in various outlets, the chief of which is Britain’s largest supermarket chain, Tesco.
“We have exported before but this is the first time we have done it with this variety and it seems to be arriving in a better condition.”
He added that Habata had already exported 18 containers so far and were aiming for at least 35 for the harvesting season, which lasts until mid-April.
Webb said although the exchange rate had gone down a bit, they saw it as a new business and would assess the return once the season was over before deciding the way forward.
“We tried the export route a few years ago, but we got a bit of a hiding so we were sceptical of doing it again.
“But because of this new variety we decided to take on the challenge and to see how it goes.
“We have been over to have a look and everyone is pretty happy with what the end product looks like.”
Whereas watermelons were traditionally only sold in the British summer, Webb said retail outlets were now looking to supply consumers throughout the year.
“Because they are crisp and firm, this variety seems to be perfect for their needs. They had previously been sourcing from Brazil, but there is a feeling that our quality is better.”