Agriculture is the predominant economic activity in Tonga.
The sector contributes 16% of Gross Domestic Product and, including forestry, provides 44% of exports. About 75% of Tonga’s population lives in rural areas, with agriculture and fisheries as their main source of livelihoods. Tonga has one of the highest rates of subsistence food production amongst Pacific Island Countries.
A total of 13,944 agriculturally active households were reported in the 2015 Agriculture Census. Over 95% of the agriculturally active households were engaged in subsistence and semi-subsistence agricultural activities with only 5% engaged in commercial activities. Handicrafts have become a major type of agriculture activity, especially in rural areas and the outer islands.
Most farmers maintain multi-crop systems based on root crops, which provide food security, employment and income. The majority of land holdings are small – eight acres or about 3.24 hectares.
Agricultural land use is dominated by crop cultivation, followed by livestock activities, however about half of the agricultural land in Tonga is fallow.
Tonga’s new Agriculture Sector Plan 2016-2020 (TASP) was launched in July 2016, and is the first sector-specific plan for the country. It aligns with the Tonga Strategic Development Framework, and was guided by the objectives and priorities outlined in the National Economic Dialogue. A copy of the document can be found in this Policy Bank. The Bank also contains legislations for forestry fisheries and food security - which fall under the purview of MAFFF.
Root crops represent approximately 50% of total exports from Tonga, with half of this being taro (1,926 tonnes of taro in 2014). Approximately 60% of the country’s root crops is exported frozen to NZ, Tonga’s major export destination.
Exports of watermelons increased from 86 tonnes in 2010 to 271 tonnes in 2013, worth TOP$389,000. Tonga’s target is to export 1,000 tonnes per annum, worth AUD$1.45M, to NZ within the next three years. NZ imports 2,500 tonnes of watermelon annually. Watermelon exports to Samoa and American Samoa have also started.
- Sources: Tonga Agriculture Sector Plan 2016-2020; 2015 Tonga National Agriculture Census Main Report and www.phama.com.au