ANTON, PANAMA - A company in Panama is hoping to join in a small niche market of the fruit export business: square watermelons. The Panama Fruit Producer company has started "rounding up" the square fruit, sending its first shipment of 120 boxy melons to New York. The company expects to produce about 3,000 of the molded melons this year, and will send them to the Netherlands and Germany as well. Operations manager Gerardo Diaz said Wednesday that people are surprised at first because "it is not what they were expecting." "Later they ask if it is a genetic experiment," he said.
Diaz said the watermelons are natural. They are made to grow inside cube-shaped glass boxes and conform to the mold as they get bigger. The first melons cost about $75 apiece, but producers hope to bring the price down. The first square watermelons are thought to have been produced by a Japanese farmer and have been sold in some markets in Japan for years. Diaz said the only square watermelon production in the Americas he knows about is in Brazil and California in the U.S.