Last updated: 08/09/2016

Tonga Joins the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Tonga has deposited the instrument of accession to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and will become a Contracting Party on 16 March 2015, bringing the total number of Contracting Parties to 134.

Tonga deposited the instrument of accession with the Director-General of the FAO on 16 December 2014, and will become the eighth country in the South West Pacific Region to join this international legal instrument, designed for the conservation and sustainable use of the world’s most important food crops.  The other regional members of the Treaty are: Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau and Samoa. 

Rural Tongans rely on plantation and subsistence agriculture. Plants grown for both market cash crops and home use include bananas, coconuts, coffee beans, vanilla beans, and root crops such as cassava and taro.

“The Kingdom of Tonga will be eligible to participate in both monetary and non-monetary benefit-sharing mechanisms, including initiatives on technology transfer, capacity building, and value-added information about food crops from the Treaty's Global Information System on Plant Genetic Resources", said Dr Shakeel Bhatti, Secretary of the International Treaty.

Ministers of Agriculture of the Pacific Region endorsed a recommendation in 2012 to support Pacific Island countries and territories that have not yet ratified the Treaty to do so.  Tonga is the second country in the Region to join the International Treaty since the last Session of the Treaty’s Governing Body in September 2013, following the Marshall Islands’ accession in 2014.

The Secretariats of the International Treaty and the Pacific Community are working closely to assist other countries in the region, including  Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Niue, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu, join the  International Treaty.

Studies published by the FAO have revealed the growing interdependence of all countries on crops and plants from other countries. In fact, Pacific countries use many crops that origininate outside their borders and which are key for regional food security and livelihood, particularly in the face of climate change.