A significant proportion of agricultural land in Tonga remains unused. There is approximately 66,200 acres of usable agricultural land although only 57,500 acres was recorded as cultivated in the 2015 Agricultural census, or 51% of the usable agricultural land fallow. The relative high proportion of fallow land is an indication of both the potential for future growth in agriculture as well as existing structural problems that need to be addressed.
|Land Use||Percent Land|
Annual crops represented the single largest proportion of utilised land. Annual crops include cassava (manioke), yams (ufi), talo futuna, sweet potatoes (kumala) and talo tonga. These crops are planted mainly for domestic consumption with approximately 5% exported through both formal and informal channels.
Perennial crops (crops with more than one year growing cycle) occupy 3207 acres (5%) of agricultural land. This is a significant decline compared with the 7,850 acres used for perennials in 2001. Although perennial crops refer to kava, paper mulberry, vanilla, pineapple and pandanus, they potentially include other plants including bananas, citrus, mangos, papaya and coconuts. These crops mature and potentially provide a return over multiple years.
Commercial growers highlighted the need to consider returns over a multiple year timeframe. The kava plant takes 4 -5 years before it is ready for harvest. By comparison, a vanilla plant may take 3-years before it starts to produce vanilla beans and will yield a return for multiple years.
Land used for watermelons (416 acres) and pineapple (454 acres) together exceeds the total used for all vegetable crops. Watermelons are produced for export whereas pineapples are mostly for domestic production.
Land used for planting vegetables other (than root crops) represent a relatively small proportion - 150 acres. Although the Tongan climate may not support some of the vegetables found in Australia and New Zealand, there are enough varieties to support commercialisation.