The Tongan government has signed an agreement with Australia in an effort to safeguard its squash industry.
As part of the agreement the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and the University of Sydney will work on strategies to combat disease, weed and insect problems in squash.
The Deputy Director of Agriculture in Tonga, Dr Pita Taufatofua, says the signing shows how important the squash industry is to Tonga's economy.
Dr Taufatofua says another example of that is the fact the Development Bank has increased its lending capital to the industry this year.
He says squash is the only crop which the economy can rely on.
"There's renewed interest in Vanilla with the world market price going up, but it's not a new crop.There are still hurdles to be tackled as far as kava is concerned. There are not many new crops that we could be putting a lot of effort into."
The new joint project will last until 2006 and is worth more 60-thousand US dollars a year.