Tongan watermelon imports to resume after discovery of fruit fly sparked suspension

A live fruit fly was found in Tongan produce at the New Zealand border earlier this year.
A live fruit fly was found in Tongan produce at the New Zealand border earlier this year. Photo credit: Getty

New Zealand has issued Tongan exporters a temporary approval permit, allowing them to send watermelons to the country under special conditions.

The issuance came yesterday afternoon, provisionally lifting the suspension of such produce which came 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 for 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."

Tonga's Trade Minister, Samiu Vaipulu, told local media work was underway to establish a more organised system to avoid fruit fly larvae being detected in products.

Melon growers affected by the suspension who exported through the Government had been paid 50 percent of their price and the Government was looking at paying for produce which was destroyed in New Zealand.