Tony Frankham

Top-fruit producer Newmafruit is harvesting its first crop of commercial melons and has said that home-grown melons provide 'excellent opportunities' for UK growers.

The grower plans to produce over 5,000 Magritte melons, from 1,200 plants, which will be sold as part of a trial to the likes of Morrisons and The Co-operative, according to Tony Frankham, MD of Newmafruit Farms.

He said: “The issue we have is when we take out our strawberry crop in February, our polytunnels do nothing for a six-month period. We viewed this trial with East Malling Research on melons as it is an opportunity to make more out of our acreage.'

Admitting that Newmafruit has also generated interest from Tesco, Frankham would like the melons to be sold as a premium range product.

He added: “If this is successful we will significantly expand the operation next season as we have over 20 polytunnels with the capacity for 400 plants per tunnel. I think us succeeding would be a good thing for the fresh produce industry as it could help to introduce a new mainstay home-grown crop and reduce the need for imports on melons, which are obviously very high.

'The melons will be sold by the retailers with a pro-British, Union Jack-heavy message and that's great to see.'

As part of the trial, Newmafruit has sold melons into local independent retailers and wholesale markets, including New Covent Garden Market.

Frankhamsaid he hopes thatMorrisons and The Co-operative will both start to sell the melons commercially by the coming bank holiday on the 26 August.