NATION

Farmers Keep Potential Buyers at Bay so Yaqona Plants can Mature Properly

Many farmers today have refused to directly sell their yaqona plants or whole plantations to prospective buyers because it results in a big loss for them. A recent trend has
24 Jan 2018 11:00
Farmers Keep Potential Buyers at Bay so Yaqona Plants can Mature Properly
Losalini Nacaucauceva packing yaqona at her grog booth in Centrepoint in Nasinu on January 22, 2018. Photo: Lusiana Tuimaisala

Many farmers today have refused to directly sell their yaqona plants or whole plantations to prospective buyers because it results in a big loss for them.

A recent trend has seen buyers from the urban centres proposing to farmers to sell their yaqona plants that are not yet uprooted and still on the ground.

A 67-year-old farmer Joe Yavala of Namosi said he was now starting to take ownership of plants on his farm that were not yet matured and opted to let them mature for at least six to seven years.

“Because of the high demand of kava after Tropical Cyclone Winston, buyers have visited and proposed to farmers to sell their plants that have not yet been harvested,” Mr Yavala said.

“Some buy a single yaqona plant for $200. Later we came to realise that it was a huge loss for us farmers, because the buyers will earn a lot more after harvesting the yaqona.”

Mr Yavala said many farmers in the village were now harvesting young yaqona plants for quick money.

“Who knew that the price of yaqona was going to increase? Many farmers are still in a state of shock because many of us never planted a lot of yaqona. But because of the current high demand many of us are starting to plant on a bigger scale.”

Mr Yavala, who has been a spice and kava supplier for the past 20 years, is surprised to witness such demand and huge increase in the price of yaqona in Fiji.

He shared with the Fiji Sun how farmers used to sell their yaqona back in the 1990s.

“Before we used to sell our yaqona for $15, $20, and $25 a kilogram. And those days $50 and $100 we get from the buyer was big money for us,” Mr Yavala said.

“Farmers are benefiting on the short term because they are doubling their sales, but they will suffer in the long term as they will run out of stock later.”

Weather

Mr Yavala said the hot weather we have been experiencing now was not a good time for farmers to plant yaqona because the yaqona would not grow well.

“As a farmer the best time for us to plant yaqona is during cold weather, and that’s the time yaqona plants will grow well,” he said.

“We also love to plant yaqona during raining weather.”

Last year Mr Yavala had a fixed buyer who visited him every week to buy yaqona and this has prompted him never to look back but to continue planting more.

Yaqona Dealers/Buyers

Losalini and Penaia Nacaucauceva, who own and operate Infant Fatima Kava at RB Patel in Centrepoint in Nasinu, said they buy from Mr Yavala because he produced quality yaqona.

Mr Nacaucauceva said in 2015 they used to buy waka (dried yaqona roots) from the Suva Municipal Market at $30 per kilogram prior to Tropical Cyclone Winston, but that changed, and now he was buying the same amount of waka at $70 to $100 per kg.

According to Mr Nacaucauceva, people were able to buy $1 worth of yaqona before, but now there were no $1 worth of yaqona being sold and the packs ranged from $5 and up.

Mr Nacaucauceva said he used to have a steady yaqona supplier, however that had also changed because farmers were now selling their crop to the highest bidder or to the person who came first with a good price.

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

“Most middlemen are looking at Kadavu to supply because the isalnd was spared by TC Winston, but the big question is what price Kadavu farmers were offering them today.

“Sometimes they ask for $100 to $110 a kg. Because of the quality of yaqona from Mr Yavala’s plantation in Namosi we always go to his farm three times in week to get our yaqona.

“Because of a high demand for yaqona nowadays our customers are regularly running after us. So we are happy that we met Joe Yavala in 2017 who has been selling quality yaqona.

“We usually get our feedbacks from our customer. The cost of yaqona between me and our supplier is confidential.”

Infant Fatima Kava also sells cigarettes and chasers, however, Mr Nacaucauceva said there had been a change in the buying pattern of people over the years.

Edited by Percy Kean

lusiana.tuimaisala@fijisun.com.fj

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