SUNBIZ

Yaqona Industry Recovery Expected To Take 3 to 6 Years

Projections are it will take three to six years for our yaqona industry to recover following the devastation caused to the industry by Tropical Cyclone Winston. This comes as the
14 May 2016 09:45
Yaqona Industry Recovery Expected To Take 3 to 6 Years
Longest Kava seller at the Suva City market, Ratu Sairusi Tagirualili. Photo: VILIMONI VAGANALAU

Projections are it will take three to six years for our yaqona industry to recover following the devastation caused to the industry by Tropical Cyclone Winston.

This comes as the price of yaqaona continues to reach record levels due to damage from Cyclone Winston to yaqona plantations.

Fiji Crop and Livestock Council emphasised yaqona is a slow-growing crop and thus the three-six year projection.

Council chairman, Simon Cole, stressed farmers’ supply for 2017, 2018, and 2019 was all taken away by TC Winston.

A significant increase of up to 200 per cent has been noted in Yaqona prices locally following the cyclone.

A random price survey in Suva, Nausori, Nadi, Lautoka and Namaka markets has revealed the average price has gone from between $30 to $45 per kilogram to $90 to $110 per kilogram.

As a result, the yaqona bags that used to be sold for $1 are not costing up to $5 per bag.

Mr Cole said: “For a yaqona plant, strong winds shake the plants which results in roots damage causing the whole plant to wilt and die.

“Unfortunately TC Winston didn’t spare most of our Yaqona producing provinces i.e. Cakaudrove, Lomaiviti, Naitasiri and Ra province.

“For all the cyclone damaged areas, the farmers uprooted all their yaqona, dried it and store it.

“Farmers are slowly releasing their dried yaqona stocks, therefore they are raising the yaqona prices as they know their current stocks will be their only source of income to wait for their next harvest.”

Mr Cole said middleman and traders are running around looking to buy in bulk but some farmers are reluctant to release all their stocks.

The worst yet

Longest Kava seller at the Suva City market, Ratu Sairusi Tagirualili, 78 years old, said the increase in price was one of the worst that he had seen since starting his business in 1970.

Mr Tagirualili given the shortage, it was the small businesses which were suffering the most.

It is understood the big players (sellers) are going straight to the farmers and buying directly from them yaqona worth $20,000 to $30,000 weekly.

Thus the farmers are lured and sell the crop to these big players who then dominate and control the market and determine the prices.

For 36 years old, Rajenesh Nand, owner of Moala and Kadavu Kava at the Suva market, business has been tough the past few weeks since Kava price increased.

He said other Kava sellers in the market are influencing this increase.

He added people are auditing Kava at the wharf when the shipment arrives and small businesses like his are suffering as they are not receiving anything.

Couple Arieta Kau and Taniela Kau Nauwa, Kava sellers at Nausori Market, shared similar sentiments as clients are not happy with the increase.

Mr Kau said: “We don’t want to lose out on our customers, so we clearly told them our price that we have bought the Yaqona and if they could accept the new price.”

 

Advice for farmers

Meanwhile, the council is urging farmers to replant their crops but the earliest a harvest can happen is three years.

“It is likely demand for imports from Vanuatu will increase in the interim and this might dampen price. However locally grown kava is preferred in the market,” Mr Cole said.

“The heads of the Kava Association through the Council has also made submissions to the Ministry led Committee (FAO and World Bank) that is now driving the medium term rehabilitation of the crop and all other crops in Fiji.

“The Association identified the logical steps required to rehabilitate the crop and an estimate of damage.”

 

Our exports

Meanwhile, it is not only the local market which will suffer from the shortage but moreso the export market.

Mr Cole said farmers who supply to the exporters cannot meet their quota because of the current situation.

“Some farmers prefer to sell to the local market which is fetching them $70 -$80kg compared to the $40 -$50 export market,” he said.

“Farmers believe the current supply can last them till the end of this year, which will directly affect our exports. Some kava exporters may close their business down due to this shortages.”

 

Farmers reaction

While those market vendors are struggling with the increased price, it is really the farmers who are benefitting for the interim.

Mr Cole said farmers are benefiting on the short term as they are doubling their sales, but they will suffer in the long term as they will run out towards the end of the year.

“Dealers who always get their supply from Taveuni, are closing down their business as they are running out of supply,” he said.

“According to the Savusavu middleman they will close down by the end of the year if the situation does not change.

“Most middleman are looking at Kadavu to supply as it was spared by TC Winston, but the big question is what price Kadavu will offer to them.”

Edited by: RACHNA LAL

Feedback:  rachnal@fijisun.com.fj



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