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ANAHEIM, CA - Brazilian melon grower Itaueira Farms was a first-time sponsor of the fourth annual PMA Foundation for Industry Talent's 5k Race for Talent, and the success of the sponsorship will have it running back next year.

Rodrigo Lima, president of Crown International USA LLC, the Coral Gables, FL-based North American marketing arm of Itaueira Farms, said that samples of its "REI" brand Canary melon were distributed to runners at the race. "All the runners loved the product, and it really gave us confidence to develop a fresh-cut line of the melons," he said. "We plan on sponsoring it again next year."

Itaueira also distributed samples at its booth during the exposition at Fresh Summit, and they were also well received by attendees. "We distributed 7,000 cups of melon during the two-day expo, which was very good," said Mr. Lima. "We were a bit concerned that [the trade show] was only two days, but it was great. Traffic the first day was outstanding, and while it was lighter the second day, it was still very good."

Carlos Prado, president of Itaueira Farms, who was in attendance at the trade show, added, "We have had five years of experience [at PMA Fresh Summit] and we have made a lot of good contacts and friends. We hope to increase volume [shipped to the United States] by 80 percent this year, and PMA is a big part of it."

Mr. Lima said that the booth samplings gave Itaueira a chance to demonstrate the difference between a commodity melon and its specialty melons.

"We had a mom and two young kids stop by the booth during the trade show," Mr. Lima said. "The kids each took a cup of melon, and then they wanted more and more and more. They could not get enough. And the thing about kids is, they tell you the truth whether you want to hear it or not. If they don't like something, they won't eat it. So to see how much they liked our melons was proof about how good they are."

Mr. Lima also said that he was impressed by the increasing international presence at Fresh Summit, and he said the global reception provided a good opportunity to meet people and exchange ideas.

"We were surprised by the diversity of people at the show - especially the increasing number of people from Asia, Africa and Europe," he said. "There is a big difference between this year and our first PMA five years ago with regard to the international presence." Itaueira also promoted a new level of traceability for its melons. "We now have a traceability number on each piece of fruit, not just on the box," Mr. Lima said.

"That is a very important development for us." Mr. Prado added that the melons are now also being treated with an ozonation process, which extends the shelf life and improves quality of the product.

Itaueira grows melons in three distinct regions in Brazil, but only melons from Ceara are currently approved for export by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Fruit from that region is available from September to mid-March.

Mr. Prado is awaiting word on USDA approval from Bahia, Brazil, which would extend the shipping season into May.

Itaueira is now testing two new varieties of melons, a Galia and a Charentais, which are smaller than the Canary melon and are produced during the same time frame. Mr. Lima said that Itaueira is so committed to the U.S. market that it actually takes a loss on shipments bound for the United States due to the increasing costs associated with shipping there.

"Ocean freight and other costs go up so much every year," he said. "But we absorb those costs because we want to establish ourselves in the U.S. market. We sell these melons for a lot more money in Brazil. We consider what we are doing as an investment. We want everyone to experience the great flavor of our product, which comes from the care we put into growing the melons. We want to live up to our slogan, 'When taste is the key.'"