TONGA SQUASH PRICES EXPECTED TO PLUMMET

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Maganti Tonga, Nov. 10) - Tonga's annual squash exports to Japan could reach 20,000 tons, but people in the industry are predicting the price will plummet this year to a disappointing low of between 20 and 15 seniti per kilo.

This follows the prediction of a bumper season, at the beginning of the growing season in June, which hyped up the growers, exporters and the bankers.

The Tonga Squash Council and the Ministry of Labour Commerce and Industries earlier in the year set a production target of 15,000 tons at a minimum price of 50 seniti per kilogram, even though last year the total harvest was between 17,000 and 18,000 tons fetching $1 per kilogram.

Major players in the industry, the bankers, the growers and the exporters, expected a higher yield and a better return this year.

The Tonga Development Bank, the major financier of squash growing, lent $2.6 million to growers this year, allowing more squash seeds to be imported for growing, and increased acreage. But the TDB’s Simi Sefanaia as the harvesting draws to a close, was predicting only 15 to 20 seniti return per kilo.

This is well below the 61 to 81 seniti per kilo that some exporters were predicting at the beginning of the harvesting in early October.

By the beginning of November when the end of the season was in sight it was becoming known that the Japanese market was already flooded with squash. The niche market for Tongan squash had shrunk following over supply by local Japanese growers and squash from Russia.

November 13, 2003

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