PUBLIC MARKET TO REOPEN IN TONGA UNDER CONTROVERSY

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NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Tonga Now, March 29) - There is some concern amongst market vendors over the return to Talamahu Market, which Government fully reopens to the public from tomorrow, March 30.

Vegetable and root crop growers, handicraft sellers, and vendors of miscellaneous goods have not used Talamahu Market since November 16.

The vendors, who after November 16 were relocated to the Flea Market in Tofoa and a strip along Taufa‘ahau Road in Fanga received notice that priority would be given to the Tofoa sellers and the remaining space would then be divided amongst Fanga vendors and other sellers in makeshift roadside stalls around Nuku‘alofa.

Farmer Sunia Mafi of ‘Utulau who sells from Fanga claims the decision is based on favoritism.

"While the return to the market is great, it’s just too bad that the order given [by Government] favors certain people over others," he said.

The concern is that there would only be cramped, crowded and less prominent spaces available to other sellers once those from Tofoa have settled in.

However, the vendors from Tofoa are given priority as they have been paying for their rented space at the Flea Market to the Government, while vendors in other locations like Fanga pay owners of the land they are on.

On the other hand, Mafi says marketing from Fanga does have its perks. He said they have longer hours to sell their products, whereas Talamahu closes each day at 5 p.m. He added that because of this and the easier access to consumers from the roadside location, higher profits are made in the day and more so in the evenings.

Pilitati Kauhenga of Niutoua, also a farmer selling from Fanga, is just glad the central market is reopening.

"This is the Government’s market for the people."

He said the greatest advantage of returning is that products are sheltered and well protected from weather conditions such as rain or sun exposure that could easily spoil food. The protection is especially essential for goods with very short shelf life like ripe bananas, as well as valuables like the tutu or beaten bark used to make tapa.

The vendors have been selling from their off-site locations now for four months.

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