Befitting an economy dependent on subsistence production (predominantly fishing and farming), Tongans are very involved with their garden plots, the weather conditions and the fruits of the sea. Each male is entitled by law to a plot of land sufficient for planting subsistence crops, and the entrepreneurial. By that same law that gives, it can also take away. Any land not effectively ‘managed’ to produce, is liable for removal from you.
The law recognises the land as a national resource to be toiled and managed. Owners are entitled to their continued use, so long as it is effectively utilised.
It is therefore befitting that the chief economic product for country has been agricultural products. The first major commercial crop was Copra prior to World War. After the decline of world markets, Banana exports became a substitute revenue generator. Quality problems contributed to the death of that industry. Today, baby squash exports to Japan is the single largest product generating export revenues for the general populace.
Most farming facilities in Tonga are small operations by independent farmers. For export, the farmers join one of many co-operatives to set production quotas and push the sale of their produce. The advent of co-operatives is a boon for indigenous farmers who lack the large scale production skills of the expatriots who formerly ran the large plantations prior to World War I.
Technical assistance has been contributed by Australia, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan, and the United States for many years. Japan has increased the awareness within Tonga of the value of the sea not only for local consumption, but for export as well.