2 Oct 2007

Tonga government say it will not be providing subsidies to struggling squash industry

8:16 pm on 2 October 2007

The Tongan Ministry of Agriculture is not planning to subsidise its squash industry despite a decline in production by more than fifty percent compared to last year.

The vegetable is one of Tonga's major export crops, but more than 80 percent of growers have stopped growing it because of poor returns.

The industry is struggling to survive and the ministry of agriculture has this year planted squash to boost the declining production.

The ministry director, Peni Vela, says while it is concerned about the drop, it will not pump money into the industry.

"The Government has in the past assisted the Squash Council. This year there is no subsidy and I am not too sure whether we should consider subsidy or not for squash. What we need to do is just to organise ourselves better, work closely among the exporters and the growers, who are willing to continue to grow sqash, I think there is a need for better coordination."

Peni Vela says Tonga will export 5000 tonnes of squash to Japan and South Korea this year compared with just over ten thousand tonnes in 2006.