Tonga estimates $39 million pa’anga damage to agriculture and crops caused by ashfall and tsunami

Damage estimated at nearly $39 million pa’anga (US$17 million) was inflicted on Tonga’s agricultural sector by the 15 January Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’apai eruption which energised a tsunami and heavy volcanic ashfall over Tonga.

Viliami Manu, CEO Ministry of Agriculture, said they had completed a tour of areas in Tongatapu, the island of ‘Eua, and the islands in Ha‘apai that were worst affected by the volcanic eruption. 

They estimate the tsunami damage to agriculture at about $9.57 million (US$4.2 million), and the damage to crops caused by ashfall at about $29.31 million (US$12.7 million). 

He said that the early season root crops, the Tokamu‘a, of yams, and other root crops, that were almost ready to be harvested, were not affected.

However, the Tokamui (late season crops), which were just sprouting were wiped out.

Fortunately, seasonal fruit crops such as squash and pumpkins, they had already been harvested, but other fruit crops such as pawpaw and pineapples were affected.

Vegetables, such as lettuces, cabbages, tomatoes and others, were heavily damaged by the ash. 

Viliami said that vanilla beans were impacted, but the plants had survived.

Despite the devastating impact of the volcanic eruption on Tonga, particularly on the low lying areas, Viliami was confident that there will be no shortages of locally grown food crops.

“There may be a slight increase in the prices of certain root crops such as yams but there will be no food shortages. The export of cassava is still flowing normally,” he said.

However, Viliami expressed his concern over a claim from an area in western Tongatapu that about 87 cattle had died following the volcano’s eruption.  

He disputed the claim and said that according to the Livestock Division of his Ministry, only very few families in the area had cattle.

This story was produced by  Pesi Fonua, originally published at Tonga Wires on 31 January 2022, reposted via PACNEWS.

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