20 Feb 2012

Attitudes to food in Tonga tough to change

11:17 am on 20 February 2012

The Tonga government's campaign to change eating habits to save the economy may take some time to bear fruit.

Tonga's economy is in a major slump with remittances down by tens of millions of dollars, lower exports and rising unemployment.

This comes as the government faces a budget deficit while a huge loan from China is nearing maturity.

An Economic Dialogue to try to grow the economy is planned for early next month while the Reserve Bank Governor, Siosi Mafi, says more tourism and more consumption of locally made products will help.

But our correspondent Mateni Tapueluelu says changing embedded attitudes about food won't happen overnight.

"Because for decades people have been dependent on imported foods, canned foods. For them to return to eating local leaf and root crops, it is an attitude that will take months for them to get to used to."