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Dry Spell Makes North Farmers Pray for Rain

Farmers in the Northern Division are praying for rain as they have been experiencing a dry spell for two months. Naren Pratap, a cash crop farmer at Boubale in Labasa
21 Sep 2018 11:00
Dry Spell Makes North Farmers Pray for Rain
Naren Pratap (right) and his brother Mahendra Pratap at Boutaga Village in Labasa on August 13, 2018. Photos: Nacanieli Tuilevu

Farmers in the Northern Division are praying for rain as they have been experiencing a dry spell for two months.

Naren Pratap, a cash crop farmer at Boubale in Labasa said he barely makes $80 a month because of the dry spell.

Mr Pratap had been planting and selling different types of vegetable and root crops the last 16 years on his ten acre land and usually makes $1000 from his produce when the weather is favourable.

“Access to sufficient water supplies is essential for successful and sustainable farming. Without water, crops die, farmers lose their income and people go hungry,” Mr Pratap said.

“In many parts of the world, either too much or too little rain falls, often at the wrong time, leading to water scarcity and crop failure,” he said.

He sells vegetables to Labasa and Boubale market vendors.

“The farm is dried up since there is no rain; so you can imagine the struggles we are facing,” the 58-year-old farmer said.

Before, he would plant cabbage and after three weeks, he would make $100 a day at the market.

He also used to plant sweet potatoes that would be harvested after three months.

“When I harvested last week, there was no crop. If the dry weather continues, I might have to stop farming and resort to something else because I have to feed my family,” he said.

With small harvests farmers cannot feed their families and fulfil other commitments. Livestock sales act as a buffer in times of hardship, farmers use money from these sales to buy food.

For seven months there has been no rain in Vanua Levu, forcing myself to buy an irrigation and water pump as we live the near a creek, this was the only way we could water the vegetables.

“What the farmers are going through right now is really tough, we are in challenging times.

“We and the market vendors are facing the hardships because the price of vegetables will hike up.”

Labasa market vendor Lusiana Namatai said prices of vegetables in the market have soared follow with the scarcity of supplies.

At the beginning of last month vegetables were being sold at almost twice or more than previous months by the suppliers and farmers at the Labasa market.

The 1200 Labasa market vendors have no choice but to double prices of what they sell.

At the Labasa market, a heap of cassava consisting of four is sold for $10 while a heap of tomatoes is for $8

Ms Namatai said the drought has forced vendors to double and even triple the price of fruits and vegetables.

She said the pineapple she usually sold individually at $4 was now selling at $10 while those usually sold at $2 for one was fetching $5 each.

She said it would take two months for the prices to drop.

“We are expecting the produce supply to recover in November. All market vendors have to struggle for a living. This time of the year is always a bad time for vendors,” she said.

“Vegetables are expensive at the market because of the long drought. Pawpaw that used to be $1.50 to $2 a kilogram is now selling at $5 a kg.

“Another reason for the shortage is the export of vegetables of which farmers have a quota with their clients to meet,” she said.

Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development, and National Disaster Management Inia Seruiratu while speaking to farmers at the Copra Millers in Savusavu last month urged farmers to use water responsibility.

“Natural disasters are beyond our control; it is something we cannot change, however while watering plants farmers need to use water sparingly,” Mr Seruiratu said.

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