New venture LEFresh has spent the past six months developing a melon business for the company, sourcing from Costa Rican supplier Rica Fruta

Two highly experienced fruit traders have used their knowledge and contacts in Costa Rica to expand the volume of fresh melons supplied into Europe by United Fruits, a supplier based in Ridderkerk, near Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Industry veterans Gerbert van Egmond and Frank Levarht worked together at Dutch trader JM Levarht & Zonen for almost two decades before it went into adminstration in early 2022.

In July 2022, they set up their own business unit LEFresh and, since then, they have helped United Fruits to add a significant volume of melons to its product portfolio, alongside existing product categories table grapes, citrus, stonefruit, onions and ginger.

With the Costa Rican melon season underway as of late January, the pair will source a range of melons from their company Rica Fruta. It works with growers to supply varieties including Galia, Cantaloupe, Piel de Sapo and yellow honeydew, as well as different types of watermelon – all of them Rainforest Alliance certified.

This season, Costa Rica is reportedly set to supply fewer yellow melons and more Cantaloupe. “Another trend is the increase of so called mini-watermelons, which are gaining more popularity each year,” says Van Egmond, who points to “a combination of an improvement in varieties, change in consumer behaviour and a lower unit price on the shelves”.

In fact, the country’s melon production has decreased considerably in recent years, he notes, from 5,200ha in 2020. This season, it is expected to be 3,500ha, similar to last season.

United Fruits expects to offer melons to customers across Europe until week 17/18, weather permitting.

Rica Fruta melon production in Costa Rica