20 Apr 2007

Tonga quash council says labour export is sign of poor economy

3:22 pm on 20 April 2007

The secretary of Tonga's Squash Council Steven Edwards says it is sad the country has had to resort to exporting labour but he says it's a sign that the economy is in dire straits.

He says Tonga's main export of squash to Japan is at a crossroads because the costs have tripled but the market is determined by supply and demand.

New Zealand's Regional Seasonal Employer scheme is being formalised with Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Vanuatu today.

But Mr Edwards believes it is not the long term solution to the country's exporting difficulties.

"How can we cope with this situation? And I think the only way we can do this is if we don't increase exports, the only way we can do it is export our people to work overseas so they can remit overseas funds. And then that's sad. That's sad that we have to resort to that."

Steven Edwards says increasing the kingdom's agricultural exports, including added value, was one of the key topics discussed during the National Economic Summit this week.