Watermelon shortage predicted for New Zealand

Biosecurity concerns thwart supplies from Tonga

Watermelon imports from Tonga were halted last week after live fruit fly larvae were detected at the New Zealand border on a consignment of watermelons from the country. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said there would now be an investigation into the non-compliance by the Ministry of Agriculture Food, Forestry and Fisheries in Tonga.

"Until the suspension is lifted, all consignments of watermelons from Tonga arriving at New Zealand's border will be held with the option of destruction or re-shipment in accordance with the Import Health Standard," the MPI said in a statement. It added there was no current pathway available for imported watermelons.

Watermelon imports from Queensland, another large supplier of the fruit, have yet to resume following the detection of cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV) on an imported consignment last December.

Jerry Prendergast from United Fresh, which represents the New Zealand produce industry, told rnz.co.nz that harvesting of New Zealand grown watermelons did not ramp up until January, meaning consumers could have to go without the fruit for some time.

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