Agricola Famosa debuts ‘Noble’ melons for the North American market
ORLANDO, FL — A line of super sweet, premium melons from Brazilian grower Agricola Famosa made their debut to the North American market at the IFPA Global Produce & Floral Show, here.
Rodrigo Lima, president of Key Biscayne, FL-based Crown International, the commercial arm in the United States for Agricola Famosa, said the melons are now available at select retailers such as Walmart, Sam’s Club and Costco, with plans for wider distribution in the coming months.
Lima said the melons, dubbed “Noble” to connote their premium status, have been grown by Agricola Famosa for the past 25 years and have gained a strong foothold in the European market.
“Currently, Europe is our largest export market for the Noble melons, as we ship 350 containers a week there,” he said. “Right now, we are sending 10-15 containers a week to the United States, and we are looking to increase that to 50 containers a week in the next four years.”
The Noble melons are the premium melon line of white honeydew, yellow honeydew, Piel de Sapo, mini seedless watermelon, large seedless watermelon, Galia and an Italian cantaloupe. He said the grower is sending all seven varieties to the United States and Canada this year, up from four varieties last year.
Lima said Agricola Famosa is among the largest melon growers in the world and grows on 8,700 hectares producing 200,000 metric tons of fruit per year, with the ability to increase its capacity to 30,000 hectares of production. He said it continually tests new varieties to see which have commercial viability. In fact, he said Agricola Famosa has its own exclusive seeds, so it can provide melons and watermelons that are different from any other origin.
Lima said Brazil is becoming another new important melon supplier to North America, as its season is September through March, which runs counter to domestic production in the U.S.
“So it is a nice complement and provides retailers with an option to offer premium melon varieties on a year-round basis,” he said. “Brazil can help stabilize the supply chain for melons and offers another option than Central America, in case weather or other factors disrupt supply from that region.”
To preserve the quality of the fruit and the continuity of supply, Lima said Agricola Famosa charters break bulk vessels to send shipments directly to three different ports in Europe.
“We started this because it had been taking sometimes two or three times longer than usual to arrive in Europe,” said Lima. “With the private vessels, we can now be there in 10-14 days.”
He said the goal is to begin a similar program to the U.S. next year, starting with East Coast ports, depending on how the market behaves and the cost of shipping containers, which has skyrocketed in the past year. As a point of reference, containers now cost three times more compared to last year.
Fruit now is received at the port of Philadelphia and warehoused at Bifulco’s Four Seasons Cold Storage in south Jersey, which Lima said has become an important partner for Agricola Famosa.
Over all, Lima said he has high hopes for growing Agricola Famosa’s melon program for North America.
“Now that we are in the major retailers, and we are receiving excellent feedback from them on the quality and service, they are adding more volume as their confidence in our supply increases,” he said.
Photo: A line of premium, super sweet melon varieties from Brazilian grower Agricola Famosa made their debut to the North American market at the IFPA Global Produce & Floral Show in Orlando, FL. Shown displaying several varieties of the melons are Ramon Alvarado, Rafael Pizzarollo, Rodrigo Lima, Fred Taveras and Felipe Cunha of Crown International, the commercial arm of Agricola Famosa in the United States.