Lower agricultural export reflects ends of squash season

Agricultural Exports Volume November 2017

  Nov 17 Oct 17
Sep 17
Aug 17

Total volumes (tonnes)
2,684.9 3,586.3 1,226.2 897.3

As expected, the total agricultural exports volume in November declined by 904.1 tonnes (25.1%) due to the end of the squash season. The volume of squash exports fell by 751.1 tonnes (26.2%) to a total of 2,114.1 tonnes over the month, of which, Tongan squash exports fell by 761.2 tonnes (27.6%) followed by a 24.8 tonnes (77.4%) fall in exports of Butterkin squash. However, export of Butternut squash increased by 35.0 tonnes (44.0%) but was not sufficient to outweigh the overall decline in the exported volume of squash products. The monthly decline reflects a similar trend as of the same month last year depicting the end of the squash season.

In addition, other exported agricultural commodities also showed a decline during the month of November, including cassava, yam, watermelon and Kava-Tonga. The decline in yam exports is similar to trends in same month of the previous years, reflected the seasonality of its harvest. Additionally, dry weather conditions may have contributed to the decline in harvesting of watermelon during the month. Kava-Tonga is still scarce in the country hence the decline in its exports, however, according to liaison with kava growers, they are exporting kava-Tonga overseas as the price is higher than the domestic price.

On the other hand, there were other exported agricultural produce that increased in November 2017. Taro was the leading produce with a 21.9 tonnes (18.5%) increase, and were mostly the export of giant taro with an increase of 11.5 tonnes (12.7%) followed by an 8.6 tonnes (75.3%) and 1.8 tonnes (11.0%) rise in exported swamp taro and taro tarua respectively. The export of Mulberry juice also increased by 18.5 tonnes and export of coconut rose by 17.8 tonnes (20.1%) of which brown coconuts increased the most by 15.8 tonnes. In addition, breadfruit, sweet potato, pineapple, chestnuts and pele leaves exported also increased during the month.

New Zealand remained Tonga’s largest agricultural export customer at 645.7 tonnes, followed by Australia and the United States. The squash was exported mainly to Korea and Japan in November 2017.

Furthermore, the total agricultural proceeds in November 2017 were $2.0 million. This is lower than the $2.4 million recorded last month reflecting the decline in volume of squash exported. The majority of total proceeds were from exporting of squash of $1.5 million (decreased by 28.6%); root crops were $0.3 million and a $0.04 million was received from exporting of Nonu juice.

Over the year, the total agricultural export volume rose by 1,947.3 tonnes (17.9%), supported by better harvest of root crops including cassava and all taro categories (giant (kape), swamp, and taro tarua), yam, Tongan squash and watermelon seasons. These offset a decline in the export volume of brown and green coconuts, kava-Tonga and vanilla over the year. The continuous support from the Government’s Development Loan scheme also supported the growth in the agricultural sector. Despite the fall in loans for agricultural sector in year ended terms, loans for agriculture continued to hold the highest share in the Government’s Development Loan portfolio. In addition, the annual agricultural export receipts rose by $3.3 million (40.4%) to $2.0 million.

On the outlook, the squash season has come to an end, this would contribute to a fall in the overall agricultural export volumes in the near term and this is evident in the latest actual data available from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forests. The Reserve Bank continues to expect that the agricultural sector will continue to grow; supported by continuous support of the Government Development Loans scheme, the stable and competitive Tongan Pa’anga against the currencies of its major trading partners, and the projected favourable weather conditions and growers’ confidence may contribute to increase agricultural exports. However, uncertainties of the weather pose a significant risk to the outlook on the agricultural sector as Tonga are now moving toward its Cyclone season.


Agricultural Exports Volumes - November 2017
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