This report summarises the findings of the tropical fruit feasibility study conducted in the kingdom of Tonga. It proposes project initiatives for consideration to develop and progress specific activities to improve the production of tropical fruits in Tonga, which directly and indirectly could raise Tongan domestic income and employment through an increase in the value of the tropical fruits sector.
Given its favourable climatic and physical conditions and, its relative abundance of suitable land, Tonga would appear to have a comparative advantage in tropical fruit production. The kingdom’s geographic position relative to New Zealand and Australia is also an advantage. Markets and access to markets are also important considerations.
Subsistence and part time growers dominate the tropical fruits sector in Tonga. There is lack of diversification of tropical fruits and markets that highlights a higher degree of risk associated with earnings. It is important to take note that remoteness of the islands and high costs often make efficient marketing both within and between the islands difficult.
While Tonga's development plans emphasize a developing private sector, advancing agricultural productivity, revitalizing export industries such as squash and vanilla bean, and developing tourism, economic growth must be supported by increased productivity of primary produce. The increases would require significant levels of investment, improved organisational arrangements, and a skilled and motivated labour force.
Workshop surveys showed the over-riding outcome expected by participants was to increase the long-term income derived from the tropical fruit sector through increasing productivity and improved market access. Productivity and sustainability, in turn, require the adoption of more efficient farming practices and techniques. This is likely to involve knowledge and skills training directly. Fruit and vegetables are a significant component of the diet of the people of Tonga and could become increasingly important for generating export income. Fruit flies however impose a huge economic drain and cause considerable crop losses. Many fruits and vegetables, mainly bananas, coconut, papaya, and taro, were previously exported to New Zealand, Australia and Japan. These countries regard fruit flies as a major threat.
Given its low productivity levels, there is significant scope to increase the production of the Tongan fruit industry. Improving the prospects of fruit production, for example, by introducing new fruit species, replacing fruit imports where appropriate, and to export fruit, were identified as key priorities.
To enable the probability of success in future projects, a number of pertinent issues would need to be considered;
- capacity building and community engagement
- product development
- increasing domestic markets
- importation of new genetic material
- demonstration trials to facilitate transfer of technology
- information access and development.
This information and knowledge could be committed to advance economic sustainability, diversify risks, create jobs, and increase householder and stakeholder income. With these skills in place, the opportunities that exist in exporting surplus production could then be progressed at some future time.
What is required is trained and skilled Tongans in production and supply chain technologies, information access, development of products suited for local conditions and, coordinated research and maintenance of demonstration and field trials to promote the adoption and adaptation of improved production technologies.
The project presents a few elements that could assist in the economic growth of Tonga by:
- investing in the people of Tonga through strengthening their knowledge base
- fostering commitment from subsistence producers through training and adoption of improved production and post harvest technologies and thereby improving incomes
- promoting cooperation and the formation of co-operatives or grower associations and in so doing supporting and enhancing production of quality produce
- enhancing commitment and engagement between agencies, and strengthening partnerships within and between the region.