Prices expected to be 20 per cent higher this season

Watermelon prices set to soar due to troubled imports

New Zealand only has twenty commercial melon growers and imports of the fruit are vital to meet demand over the summer months. Alas, biosecurity and logistical problems have put the brakes on shipments from key growing areas and prices are expected to be about 20 per cent higher this season.

All fresh cucurbit imports from Queensland were suspended last December due to the cucumber green mottle mosaic virus. The ban – which contributed to soaring prices for the fruit last summer, including a $46 melon found at a New World supermarket – remains in place.

Supply was squeezed even further when imports from Tonga were temporarily halted after fruit fry larvae were found in a shipment at the Ports of Auckland in October.

The Ministry for Primary Industries gave temporary approval for imports from Tonga to resume – under strict conditions – earlier this month. However, the first shipment of 10 containers was cancelled after trucks organised by Tonga’s Ministry of Agriculture failed to collect the produce from farms.

While local growers produce a total of about 4800 tonnes a year of all melons, New Zealand imported 201 tonnes of watermelon from Tonga and a further 2138 tonnes from Australia in the year to August 2020, according to Stats NZ.


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