The Honduran melon sector wants to conquer the demanding and restrictive Asian market. The sector reached a new milestone after it obtained an export license for the first shipment to Japan.
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Arnaldo Castillo, head of the Ministry of Economic Development (SDE), said the goal was to consolidate this new niche and soon enter the markets of Taiwan and South Korea, with whom the authorities and representatives of melon producing companies were already negotiating.
"The Ministry has included more companies in this process. All the companies that are part of the Association of Melon Producers and the Federation of Agricultural Exporters of Honduras (FPX) met with representatives of the embassies of Taiwan and South Korea to continue advancing the process in an orderly and proper manner, so we can achieve exporting Honduran melons to those countries," Castillo said.
German Perez Destephen, former Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, said Honduran exports accounted for 18.4% of all Central American melon shipments.
"The main exporters in the region are Guatemala, with a share of 56.3%, Costa Rica with 23.7% and Honduras with 18.4%," Perez stated.
He also said that the country had sold $55.9 million dollars in melons in the 2014-2015 season.
Economically and socially, the melon is one of the most important crops in the country, especially in the south, where it has a greater presence. Currently, it generates over 68,000 direct and indirect jobs in Honduras.
The main destinations are the United States, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore, but it is distributed in more than 30 countries.
Perez Destephen stressed the importance of entering the Japanese market, through the exporter Agrolíbano, as it is a market that has more than 127 million people.
He also stated that market paid two to four times more for the fruit than other countries. "A melon in Japan can cost between 5 dollars (114 lempiras) and 10 dollars (229 lempiras), depending on the variety and quality" he said.
According to estimates, during 2017 Honduras will ship 75 to 100 containers to Japan, which will generate about five million dollars.
Keny Molina, commercial director of Agrolíbano group, said they had only sent one container so far because the season was over, but that they hoped to send a second container in December this year, when the harvest starts again.
"The certification process lasted four years. They are very demanding, but we were confident in the quality of our product. At this time, we are in negotiations with several Japanese companies that are interested in acquiring the fruit during 2017," he said.
Jacobo Regalado, former Minister of SAG, highlighted the work done by the Honduran authorities regarding phytosanitary measures.
"Exporting our melon to Japan demonstrates the quality of our products. Honduras is free of the Mediterranean fruit fly and other diseases that affect melons in other countries; this demonstrates that we are using good agricultural practices here," said Regalado. ■
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