The nation currently grows 500 varieties of melon, including the Czar Melon, grown to honour President Saparmurat Niyazov, and the Golden Age, meant to symbolise prosperity under the president, the Agriculture Ministry said.

"Let the life of every Turkman be as beautiful as our melons," Niyazov said in a statement.

"There is nothing like that in any country of the world," the state-run Neutral Turkmenistan daily said in a headline.

Niyazov has led the former Soviet republic, a largely desert nation rich in natural gas, since 1985 as Communist Party chief. He was elected president in 1992 in the wake of the Soviet collapse, and has since created a personality cult around himself.

Niyazov's image adorns buildings across the country of 4.8 million people, and a gold statue of him in Ashgabat rotates to always face the sun. He has renamed months of the year after himself and his family.