Astrakhan seeks to protect its golden innovation

The Southern Russian region of Astrakhan is known to produce the world’s best watermelons. Now local scientists have developed a new golden variety, but officials admit they need help to protect and market the innovation worldwide.

Official figures show only 10% of Russia’s 150 MLN watermelons are grown in Astrakhan, home to what are considered the world’s finest. Now the region is introducing “Made-in-Astrakhan” stickers to protect their produce. Sellers on the ground say the scheme will die on the vine.

To our great shame, we don’t know how to export this. Americans would have already made a marketing show out of it. One of our watermelons recently sold in France for 500 euros! We’re ready to work with any foreign company who could advise us.

Ivan Nesterenko, Astrakhan region Agriculture Minister

 «70% of watermelons are claimed to be from Astrakhan when they’re from Stavropol, Rostov or Kalmykia. But it’s logistically impossible to put stickers on every one. Secondly, the stickers will be forged, just like the documents of origin,» says Intigam Mamadov, a watermelon seller.  

The chairwoman of “Zerehye” co-operative said they had just developed a completely new variety of golden watermelon.

“People’s first reaction is 'what is this?'. But when they try it they can't stop. Tasters say it has a pineapple tang and a slight honey aftertaste. But we won’t launch the product without a proper advertising campaign,” she noted.  

It took eight years of refining seeds to produce this natural product, but the region’s Agriculture Minister says they do not know what to do with the innovation, other than attach a ‘Made in Astrakhan’ sticker.  

“To our great shame, we don’t know how to export this. Americans would have already made a marketing show out of it. One of our watermelons recently sold in France for 500 euros! We’re ready to work with any foreign company who could advise us,” announced Ivan Nesterenko, Astrakhan region Agriculture Minister.

Despite their naivety, the stickers and golden watermelons mark the first steps for some of Russia’s traditional sectors to enter the modern world of marketing and trademark protection.