A special ceremony was held in Nuku’alofa, Tonga on 22 July where the Pacific Community (SPC) handed over new varieties of crops as tissue culture material and vegetable seedlings to support Tonga in their quest to sustain food, nutrition and livelihood security.

A special ceremony was held in Nuku’alofa, Tonga on 22 July where the Pacific Community (SPC) handed over new varieties of crops as tissue culture material and vegetable seedlings to support Tonga in their quest to sustain food, nutrition and livelihood security.

Presented to Tonga were 24 varieties of bananas, sweet potato, potato, pineapple and ginger comprising of about 1,000 plantlets provided by the Pacific Community’s Centre for Pacific Crops (CePaCT) through funding support from the European Union through SPC’s Pacific Agriculture Policy Project.

The presentation also included over 200 packets and over 45 tins containing over 100 kilograms of vegetable seeds including, cucumber, beans, cabbage, carrots, eggplants, lettuce, capsicum, raddish, tomatoes and watermelons. The vegetable seeds were provided with assistance from the Government of Australia through the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research.

The Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga, the Hon. Siaosi Sovaleni, in accepting the crops and vegetable seeds from the Pacific Community’s Deputy Director-General, Dr Audrey Aumua, acknowledged SPC’s efforts in presenting Tonga with the gift of tissue culture plants and vegetable seeds to address ongoing challenges with health, disasters and climate change.

This is the first time that many of these varieties have been distributed by SPC’s Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT), which houses the region’s only internationally recognised genebank.

“Crop diversity is a tool for managing climate change and disasters, as well as providing resilient varieties that can tolerate certain pests and diseases, source of nutrient rich varieties to combat high incidence of non-communicable diseases in the Pacific,” said Dr Aumua.

Included in the handover are the Taiwanese banana varieties that are tolerant to a severe fungal disease (Panama disease, fusarium wilt tropical race 4); reported to have affected many banana plantations in Central and South America.

For improving health of communities and supporting the tourist market; SPC has also provided three new pineapple varieties which have originated from Hawaii, due to limited genetic base of pineapples in Tonga.

The sweet potatoes provided include purple and orange flesh varieties containing anthocyanins, carotenoids, Vitamins A and C, iron and phosphorus.

Crops such as the grande naine banana, sweet potato and pineapples are less susceptible to wind damage and other crops such as the Robusta and Williams banana varieties can tolerate drought and atoll conditions.

Most of the varieties provided can also be exported to support livelihoods and import substitution.

Photo Caption: Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga, Hon Siaosi Sovaleni accepted tissue culture varieties and vegetable seeds under funding assistance by the EU Pacific Agriculture Policy Project and the Australian Government

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