Boosting Tonga’s watermelon exports with better storage and smart irrigation system

Tonga’s watermelon exports will soon benefit from improved cold storage and smart irrigation systems, following a new partnership signed between Nishi Trading Company Limited and the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Plus (PHAMA Plus) Program.

Supported by Australia and New Zealand, PHAMA Plus is working with Nishi Trading to upgrade their existing cold storage facility and pilot a new irrigation system to enhance drought resilience and increase yields and quality of watermelons.

The family-owned company is the main supplier of Tongan watermelons to New Zealand and Samoa. Nishi Trading is one of few companies in Tonga with a cold storage facility that maintains a whole range of horticultural products, including watermelons, that are processed and stored at optimum temperatures awaiting the arrival of export vessels. The upgrade will also include training of its packhouse staff in cold store management, ensuring effective handling and storage of its products for exports.

Nishi Trading Managing Director, Minoru Nishi, said the company will also test modern irrigation techniques on its own farm and those of some of their regular suppliers to help boost production, yield and quality of watermelons.

“Tonga exported around 474 tonnes of watermelon in 2020, valued at AUD $416,448. There was a slight reduction in volume in 2021, with 460 tonnes exported, but the total value increased to AUD $510,652. However, production and exports experienced setbacks in 2022 and 2023 due to the unavailability of proper irrigation infrastructure, prolonged drought, and limited cold storage capacity,” he said.

“With this new partnership, we look forward to improving the volume and quality of watermelons for export.”

PHAMA Plus Country Manager, Tevita Lautaha said: “PHAMA Plus support to this partnership is aligned with its objective to develop Tonga’s horticulture sector and achieve its overall goal of improving rural livelihoods and inclusive economic growth.”

Since 2014, PHAMA Plus has partnered with Nishi Trading on a range of initiatives including ensuring compliance with China’s biosecurity requirements for importing squash, supporting their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) accreditation, trial exports of watermelons to Samoa, and enhancing watermelon production through training of their staff and network of smallholder, semi-commercial, and commercial growers.


For more information, please contact PHAMA Plus Country Manager, Tevita Lautaha on

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