$46 watermelon shocks Kiwis

A shortage of the fruit has meant high prices.
A shortage of the fruit has meant high prices. Photo credit: Getty

A mixed local season and restrictions on some imports has meant a tough summer so far for New Zealand watermelon lovers.

A shocked user of the social media platform Reddit posted a photo of a watermelon in a supermarket with a $46 price tag, with the caption "Who is buying these watermelons?!"

At 11 kilos, the pictured melon from New World was very large, with the usual size of the fruit usually between three to five kilos. 

However, head of corporate affairs at Foodstuffs which owns New World, Antoinette Laird said the high price per kilo reflected low supplies of the fruit.

"There has recently been a shortage of watermelon in New Zealand, this is due to dry weather conditions earlier in the season affecting supply," said Laird.  

There was good news for watermelon lovers ahead.

"The shortage has now eased and customers can expect to see this reflected in the price, with an average-sized watermelon priced at $7.99 this week." 

A photo of the 11-kilo melon was posted on Reddit.
A photo of the 11-kilo melon was posted on Reddit. Photo credit: Reddit/Redeyepenguin

The shortage from locally grown watermelon had been made worse by a suspension on melons imported from Queensland.

Biosecurity NZ detected cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV) following routine border testing on consignment of watermelons last year.

Head of produce at Countdown Steve Sexton said that had meant there hadn't been any imported watermelons to help bridge the gap before the New Zealand season started.  

"As a result, the price of watermelons has been higher than it normally would be at this time of year because there's such limited supply," said Sexton.

"The great news is that we're expecting a full local watermelon crop ahead, and customers will be able to enjoy reduced prices and plenty of watermelons when they arrive in-store over the next few weeks."

A spokesperson for Biosecurity New Zealand said the suspension on imports of fresh melons from Queensland remained in place.

However, it said the import season for water, honey and rockmelons from Australia ended in December and the domestic supply of these cucurbit species was now getting underway. Watermelon could still be imported to New Zealand from New Caledonia and Tonga.

"Our priority is to ensure we prevent unwanted fruit diseases, like cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV), from being introduced to New Zealand as it could have a serious impact on local production of cucurbit crops." 

There was no suggestion the disease was in New Zealand.

"The length of the suspension will depend on how quickly Australian authorities can investigate the situation and put measures in place to assure New Zealand that their product is free from the disease."