First trial shipments of Tongan watermelons to NZ cancelled after failed trucking arrangements

Kuo kaniseli e fuofua uta pe konisainimeni meleni ‘e 10 'ahi'ahi ne papau ke fakaheka mai ki Nu’u Sila’ ni ‘aneafi Tokonaki ‘aho 5 mei Tonga. ‘Oku mahino ko e tupu ‘eni mei ha palopalema fakafetu’utaki fakalotofonua ‘i ha mōmeniti faka’osi mo e ngaahi kautaha loli uta koloa’ ‘o ‘ikai lava ai ke fetuku e meleni’ ki uafu. Ne feinga vale holo e kau uta meleni na’a lava ke tokoni heni ‘a e Palēmia mo e Minisitā Ngoue’ ka ne ‘ikai lava he ne na lolotonga ‘i Vava’u’ kinaua he Lotu ‘Aukai mohu fakaanga’i ‘A e Pule’anga’ ke ta’ofi e Koviti-19. ‘Oku mahino foki ko e meleni ko ‘eni ‘e ‘ikai tali ia ke toe uta mai ‘amui he uike ni ki Nu’u Sila he ‘oku fiema’u pe ‘a e meleni toki toli ke fakaheka ‘o fetuku ki vaka pea mavahe mai. Ne toki foaki atu’ ni pe ‘e Nu’u Sila ha ngofua fakataimi ki Tonga he Pulelulu’ ke faka’atā hano hū mai e meleni hili hano ta’ofi tu’unga he lango hūhūkia ne ma’u ki mu’a.

The shipments of ten consignments of watermelons which were expected to be transported to New Zealand yesterday Saturday 5 have been cancelled.

A last-minute arrangement with trucking companies to transport the consignments to the wharf in Tongatapu obviously did not go to plan and this has been blamed for the cancellation, Kaniva News has learnt.

MAFF Minister Lord Tuilakepa. Photo/Fale Alea ‘O Tonga (Cropped)

The issue needed immediate “intervention” from the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture, Hon Lord Tu’ilakepa but they were in Vava’u as part of the Cabinet’s tour to promote its controversial Covid-19 fasting and prayer service.

These melons would no longer be exported after yesterday’s episode because every consignment expected to be shipped to New Zealand required only freshly picked melons, a source said.

The news comes after New Zealand issued a temporary approval permit on Thursday, allowing Tongan exporters to send watermelons to the country under special conditions.

The issuance provisionally lifted the suspension of such produce which was imposed after the discovery of live fruit fly at the New Zealand border in a shipment of Tongan watermelons nearly two months ago.

In a statement, Peter Thomson from Biosecurity New Zealand, said approval had been given to Tonga to implement corrective actions and improved processes for exporting watermelons.

“It is critical that MPI [Ministry of Primary Industries] has confidence that these processes are fully implemented before we fully reinstate the pathway.

“The approval allows a number of trial shipments, which will be carefully monitored for compliance with the agreed export processes.”

He said Tonga would need to complete the trial shipments without any non-compliance issues.

“MPI will then fully reopen the pathway and closely monitor it to ensure export processes continue to be undertaken.”

Thomson said New Zealand was currently free from fruit fly species that attack commercial fruit.

“If introduced to New Zealand, these fruit flies could have devastating consequences to our horticultural production and trade.”

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