09 June 2012

Buy Tonga Made

Our favourite Tongan chips by Cocker Enterprises.
Ingredients: casava, vegetable oil, salt. Yum.
A lot of people in Tonga tend to think that anything imported is better: you're high-class if you serve boxed juice at your table instead of delicious fresh young coconuts, canned corned beef is usually more highly prized than locally-caught fish, and importing construction materials is generally considered to make you a better house than what's available here.

In a small, remote place like Tonga, you can't avoid imports. There is just no way that a company in Tonga will be able to supply all of the population's needs of the basics like flour, eggs, oil, and meat, even with most people heavily eating locally-grown root crops. And that's not even considering the impossibility of manufacturing appliances, fixtures, electronics, and other necessities of life and business.

Even so, there are so many possibilities for goods made in Tonga:
- some that businesses have already started to develop. The beginning of June kicked off a month-long campaign run by the Ministry of Labour and Commerce entitled "Buy Tonga Made: our product, our people, our livelihood."
My favourite newest business: the two women at Kenani Estate have just started producing beautiful skin products out of locally grown, locally pressed virgin coconut oil.
As I walked through the mini-trade fair last Friday, I was impressed by the variety of the businesses on display covering everything from paint to ice cream to tuitui oil: Kenani Estate, Cowley & Sons, Jones Industries, Nishi Trading, Skips Joinery, Fehoko Arts, Siloni Music, Pacific Paints, Lucky 7 and several others.

Another new discovery was the delicious (if slightly dubiously coloured) passion fruit juice by Fiesta.
Which is definitely a Tongan company, dispite its name.
Although huge efforts to sway consumers to buying goods manufactured in-country could be called protectionist in a larger country, Tonga is simply too small. In fact, a lot of industries in Tonga have been seriously hurt by unevenly implemented policies- some to favour local businesses too much and some that favour them too little.
Lucky 7 was a winning Youth In Business, started by the students of 'Atenisi University. They produce tuitui oil: good for the hair and skin.

The Buy Tonga Made campaign is a lot like any buy local campaign. There's no way consumers in Tonga can buy entirely local, but when consumers start buying some local goods instead of multinational, (almost) everyone wins: it's better for Tongan businesses, better for the labour market, and better for the environment.


  1. We very fondly remember Toatu chips; a product that we purchased every Saturday we found them at the maketi on Vuni Road. Too often, the young girls who staffed the Toatu chip booth were missing--but, when present, they shared a smile with each purchase. Their pineapple jelly and koa soap were also highly favored--and a Tongan product that we brought home with us!

  2. i live in Tonga to and noticed the fair going on the other weekend. Do you know where i can get virgin coconut oil for cooking or baking in Nuku'alofa?

    1. P.S. I think I saw your family at World Oceans Day at the old wharf. Tonga's a small place- welcome! :)

  3. Yes! The Tonga National Youth Congress (TNYC) sells bottles direct out of their office. They're just around the corner from Tupou Tertiary Institute near Cowley's bakery. It's really good product- we use it all the time at home for cooking.


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