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Nicaragua steps up to satisfy seedless watermelon demand up north


Vegyfrut harvester in Nicaragua (courtesy of La Prensa)Vegyfrut harvester in Nicaragua (courtesy of La Prensa)

When late frost ruined watermelon crops all over the United States and Canada this past spring, Nicaragua’s Vegyfrut came to the rescue. In March, the fruit and vegetable processing company, with technical assistance from USAID’s Enterprise & Employment (E&E, managed by CARANA), shipped 300 tons of seedless watermelon valued at $170,000. The fruit is an unusual crop in Nicaragua, complies with U.S. quality standards, and was produced at Vegyfrut’s plot of land as a test pilot.

The unusual watermelon shortage opened a window for Nicaragua’s small producers to enter the North American market, a trade link that now continues to be nurtured by Vegyfrut with sustained E&E support. The first shipment was produced from 26 acres of land, and the acreage is expected to increase to 175 with the incorporation of at least 5 small producers. This will enable Vegyfrut to earn more than $1 million in revenue during the next agricultural cycle. E&E is providing technical assistance in production and post-harvest condition to farmers to respond to the growing demand for seedless watermelon.

It takes 11 days to for these watermelons to travel from the fields in Nicaragua to Miami, from where they will be distributed as far as Chicago and New York City. Leading Nicaraguan daily La Prensa published a great description of the harvesting process. Read here (in Spanish).

Read E&E’s newsletter featuring this story.

Published May 2011