Watermelon warning: Tonga’s worrying wet weather harvest

A volatile wet season has affected Tongan watermelon growers still recovering from a string of natural disasters and they fear droughts and flooding rains are becoming an ongoing threat to harvests.

But forecasters say more stable times are ahead in coming months. 

Kafoika Lautaimi exports watermelon and squash from Tonga. 

“In the beginning of the year there was hope to export more to overseas markets,” he says. 

“The first watermelon consignment was damaged because of too much rainfall.  

“The second wasn’t able to be exported so it remained in Tonga in the local markets. 

“We have markets available and reliable exporters but we cannot supply their needs because of weather conditions.” 

While Tonga avoided severe damage during the most recent cyclone season, the La Nina weather pattern made for a volatile wet season, with significant wet periods and months of below average rainfall. 

Tonga Meteorological Office’s Seluvaia Vea says despite the farmers concerns, the weather was largely within the range of anticipated seasonal variations. 

“We did have some periods of below average rainfall around November to December,” she says. 

“According to our records, we received very high rainfall during January and February. Just be mindful this is our wet season. 

“There was also some periods of below average rainfall we experienced in March and April.” 

In welcome news, the Kingdom has moved to what is described as a neutral weather pattern now with average rainfall forecast for the rest of the year, but farmers and growers are calling on the government for more attention to food security challenges.


Photo file  Caption: Watermelons from Tonga