Export Pathway Training to Boost Tonga’s Watermelon Trade

The Tonga Watermelon Export Taskforce (TWET) and the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Plus (PHAMA Plus) program are supporting trade in fresh watermelons from Tonga to New Zealand through training and skills development.

PHAMA Plus has mobilised Graham Walker, a highly experienced entomologist from Plant and Food Research (PFR) New Zealand to work with farmers, exporters and line ministry staff to provide advice on improved pest management in the watermelon crop.  This mission is part of a broader package of technical support provided by Australia and New Zealand through PHAMA Plus, PFR and TWET to improve the quality of watermelons being shipped and placed on the market in New Zealand.

More than 60 farmers and workers from across the watermelon industry attended the first training session on Tuesday 13 June, 2023 held at the village of Tatakamotonga.  

While officially opening the training, New Zealand’s Deputy High Commissioner to Tonga, Ms Leitu Sa said: “Through PHAMA Plus, New Zealand is proud to provide support that strengthens the industry and to explore innovative ways of expanding trade opportunities for its horticulture sector in ways that benefits both farming households and exporters. The next two weeks of training is all about information and knowledge sharing, harmonising local knowledge with science and research that will help boost watermelon trade from Tonga.”

New Zealand generally imports 800-1,000 tonnes of watermelon from Tonga and Australia during the third quarter of the year, before local supplies become available.

With Tonga’s watermelon export season running from July to September, TWET chairperson Ms Siutoni Tupou says this training will help the industry improve general practices and procedures for improved quality.

“The training of our farmers by NZ PFR expert entomologist Graham Walker is very timely. It is important to first understand the insect pest of concern, its nature and life cycle before assessing any crop damage and the control required.  This supports improvements to Tonga’s export pathway to New Zealand and maintains trade opportunities for our local farmers and exporters,” said Tupou.

“Supporting improvements to the watermelon export pathway is a key focus for PHAMA Plus’s work in Tonga, in addition to work on other priority commodities including root crops, kava, vanilla and coconuts. Developing the export market for watermelons require longer-term investment and commitment from key stakeholders in terms of quality and supply consistency in order to gain market confidence and increased income opportunities for our growers and exporters,” said PHAMA Plus Country Manager Tonga, Tevita Lautaha.

PHAMA Plus is currently supporting the horticultural sector in Tonga through several partnerships and interventions to increase export volumes and returns to both exporters and farmers, with a long-term goal of increasing overall exports and making a positive contribution to rural household income, including through watermelon exports.


For more information, please contact PHAMA Plus Country Manager Tevita Lautaha on t.lautaha@phamaplus.com.au

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