The ban on Tongan watermelon exports to New Zealand (as well as kava exports to Australia) is having a drastic impact on the Tongan economy. On October 20, lord Tu'i'afitu, Chairman of the Whole House Committee, called on the government to take action immediately, easing the burden on the nation’s watermelon growers.
Tonga’s two main watermelon exporters are Nishi Trading and the Tonga Farmers’ Co-operative Ltd. These exporters have their own growers. Matangi Tonga could not get any confirmed figures of the number of growers affiliated with Nishi Trading, but the Tonga Farmers’ Co-operative Ltd. have 43 growers.
Watermelon is in abundant supply throughout Tonga at the moment, and because of the stoppage for its export, the price has dropped on the local market to, probably, its lowest ever. Export quality fruit are selling for $3-$5 pa'anga along roadsides on Tongatapu as desperate growers try to sell thousands of watermelons.
The importation of watermelon from Tonga to New Zealand was halted after live fruit fly larvae were detected in a consignment of watermelon from Tonga.