Agriculture represents around 14% of Tonga’s GDP, and constitutes over 65% of the country’s TOP$26M exports. The majority of Tonga’s households (64% of 15,738) are involved in agricultural production, with approximately 2.4% of households operating as commercial producers.
In addition, around 39% produce some crops to sell through markets and roadside stalls. Like many other Pacific island countries, Tonga has struggled to maintain agricultural competitiveness and meet more stringent biosecurity requirements imposed by trading partners.
Traditional exports, such as copra, have been in long-term decline. In the mid-late 1990s, squash production emerged as an important export to Japan, peaking at over 50% of Tonga’s exports.
However, cheaper and more consistent supplies from Mexico largely pushed Tonga out of the Japanese market. Today, Tonga’s agricultural potential lies in the export of root crops and higher-value horticultural crops to New Zealand (NZ), particularly in the NZ winter. Crops include: root crops (e.g. taro, cassava, yams), squash, watermelons, breadfruit, zucchinis, eggplant, vanilla, chillies and beans.
PHAMA is about maintaining, identifying and strengthening sustainable and profitable trading partnerships that benefit South Pacific island countries. Through ‘Market Access Working Groups’ (MAWGs), PHAMA facilitates public private partnerships that pinpoint viable commercial export opportunities and collectively work to realise these opportunities for local agribusiness.
MAWGs involve private sector representatives (e.g. exporters and producer groups), relevant government agencies (e.g. Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forests and Fisheries (MAFFF); Ministry of Commerce, Tourism and Labour; Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) and public enterprises. They are the vital link between farmers, processors, exporters and government. PHAMA's Tonga MAWG is a cabinet endorsed partnership, including highlevel technical government and industry representatives, and operates under a National Charter.
PHAMA’s strategy in Tonga is to support government and industry to utilise and improve existing horticultural export opportunities, address infrastructure needs to improve market requirements compliance and export efficiency, and identify and progress viable new market access opportunities. Current focus areas are outlined below.