As most residents of Divjaka grapple with high costs of farm inputs during this planting season, farmers are struggling with another problem that they never anticipated when they started growing melons many years back. That their produce might not make it to the market.

They planted melons (cantaloupes) on the family farm on the outskirts of Divjaka after growing salad and lettuce for many seasons. “Last year we did great, as we had melons on early season and traded them at a good price. This year is different. we don’t know how it is going to go”, they say for AgroWeb, with a tint of pessimism.

In Divjaka, which is the champion region in Albania for the production of melons and watermelons next to Lushnja, farmers are being skeptical in increasing their melon production, due also to a decrease in demand.

Saimir Biti, an exporter from Divjaka says that this year he expects to export less. “It is not that our melons are of low quality. They are great, but probably the competition is getting tougher”, says Biti for Agroweb.

Last year Biti exported around 500 tons of melons, while this year the amount will be almost cut in half, with approximately 300 tons of melons he will export in the foreign market. Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia are the countries that look more forward to taste our sweet melons. But some also do export in Poland and other EU countries.

Melons do very well in warm climate and the demand from the EU market is generally high, but the only glitch is that when it comes to melons they prefer the early harvest ones. “It is true, they like the early seasons ones. It’s a taste preference, I guess”, says Saimir Biti, encouraging farmers to also consider an early harvest for their melons.

“The market dictates our production. If the weather is nice and warm, we have our melons ready in the market just at the start of the season. Since our melons are field production, we are highly affected by the weather”, says for Agroweb, Lumi Kruti from Divjaka who produces field melons.

Demand for melon is traditionally correlated to the weather: as the temperature increases, so the demand for melon increases. There is strong demand in both the domestic and export markets for early season melons, and extending the season forward would enable producers to meet this demand.

In order to fulfill the market demand, farmers are also producing indoor melons, with the high tunnel greenhouses, which are low-cost, passive, solar greenhouses which use no fossil fuels for heating or venting. High tunnels protect the growing crop from environmental stress such as drought, driving rain, wind and temperature extremes and farmers from losses by ensuring them a good harvest.

It has been estimated that between 1.400 -1600 hectares of melons are planted each year, although this amount fluctuates based on producers’ perceptions of the relative value of melon compared with other crops. The overall trend is an increased demand for our melons from both the EU and the Balkan countries, which are very reach in taste and luckily for us also sweet in returns./AgroWeb.org