TONGAN SEASONAL WORKERS WAIT OUT FRUIT VIRUS

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Kiwifruit exports halted to Australia, United States

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Nov. 16, 2010) – The virus afflicting kiwifruit orchards in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty has forced 20 seasonal workers from Tonga to delay their departure to New Zealand.

[PIR editor’s note: Bay of Plenty is situated on the northern coast of North Island, New Zealand. An outbreak of a vine virus is threatening the kiwifruit industry halting kiwifruit imports to Australia and the United States. According to the NZ.herald, the Ministries of Agriculture and Forestry are working together to remove the infected plants and ensure their safe disposal. The source of the virus has not been detected but it is suspected to have been introduced through artificial pollen.]

The organizer of the workers, Sefita Haouli, says they were to arrive last week to work on pollination in the orchards.

Sefita Haouli says the workers recognize there is little they can do and he is urging them to be patient. He says seasonal workers across the Pacific are beginning to express concern because if the disease cannot be contained that will affect exports and then their wages. Mr. Haouli says people in Tonga are worried but hope they will be able to come to New Zealand for work in the near future. He says if the vines need to be destroyed to eradicate the virus, the impact will be significant in the islands.

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