Canary melons from Brazil are scheduled to begin arriving in the United States in early October, and the North American marketer of the product said that it is expecting a good volume of high-quality melons this season.
This represents the fourth year of U.S. distribution for the melons, which are grown by Itaueira Farms and marketed under the "REI" brand.
The melons are grown in three Brazilian states, according to Rodrigo Lima of Crown International USA LLC,which markets the melons in the United States for Itaueira Farms. Production kicks off in the northern part of Brazil in Ceara, which is close to the equator. Following that, production moves farther south to the state of Bahia and finally finishes in Piaui.
Currently, only product from Ceara has been cleared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for shipment to the United States. Supplies last until about mid-March when the rainy season begins in Ceara. Mr. Lima said that he expects to receive USDA approval for Bahia production next season, which would extend U.S. shipments into May. Eventually, Itaueira will seek approval for Piaui-produced fruit, but that process has yet to begin.
"We are very happy with the start of the season this year," said Mr. Lima. "The climate has been perfect - dry and hot - and we are very happy with the results of the crop."
"REI" Canary melons are shipped in 22-pound boxes in 5-, 6- and 7-count sizes. Typically, the season starts with a high volume of the larger 5-count melons, with 6-count coming on about midway through and 7-count melons at the end of the deal.
There has been a slight increase in acreage this season - 5,187 acres in 2011 compared to 4,446 acres in 2010 - but Mr. Lima said that Itaueira is more focused on quality than quantity.
"These are super-sweet melons, and consistency is the most important thing for us," said Mr. Lima. "During our first three seasons of marketing in the U.S., we received great feedback on our quality and flavor, and we want to continue focusing on flavor to gain repeat sales."
Prior to this season, all fruit shipped to the United States was received in Newark, NJ, and distributed nationwide from there, according to Mr. Lima. However, to better facilitate distribution, two other facilities have been established to receive the fruit, one in Los Angeles and another in Miami.
While Itaueira Farms is looking to broaden its distribution in the United States and Europe, Mr. Lima said that the melons are extremely popular in the domestic market in Brazil.
"We are selling a lot of volume in Brazil," he said. "The 'REI' brand is very famous and has a great reputation in Brazil, and even though they are more expensive than other melons, people are willing to pay more for them because of their quality and great flavor. This is the same philosophy we are using with selling to the U.S. and Europe, to promote the quality and flavor."
Along with earning consumer confidence in the flavor and quality of its melons, Itaueira also strives to earn the trust of its customers with regard to food safety, according to Mr. Lima, who said that "REI" canary melons have traceability on the box level and will soon have traceability on the item level.
"We have been experimenting with stickering each piece of fruit with bar codes that are fully traceable, and we have seen great success with that in Brazil," said Mr. Lima. "We plan to begin testing that here in the U.S. at the end of this season."
Since 1983, Itaueira Farms has been focused on growing top-quality fruits. The compay, which is owned and operated by the Carlos Prado and his family, sells melons year round in Brazil and exports product to the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.