TONGA’S SQUASH GROWERS NOT MAKING LOAN PAYMENTS

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NUKU'ALOFA, Tonga (September 3, 1998 - PACNEWS/Amy)---Tonga’s squash growers are failing to make bank loan payments on time because of poor crop harvests, the result of a prolonged drought and a late start of the planting season during the early part of July.

Tonga Development Bank’s Siola'aa Tu'itupou said the bank provided loans totaling 4.4 million pa'anga ($US 2.49 million) for growers.

About 650 farmers finance their squash pumpkin farms through bank loans, he added, and had plans to harvest about 12,000 tons of the vegetable this season. It now is expected that less than 6,000 tons will be harvested.

Squash pumpkins are Tonga’s dominant export crop and a major foreign revenue earner.

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