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SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 8, 2000 – Fiji’s Daily Post)---The price of yaqona (kava) has dropped in the overseas market, forcing farmers to concentrate on planting the crop rather than harvesting it.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the steep decline in the price of pharmaceutical kava is due to the lower sales of its end products.

Agriculture officer in Taveuni, Uraia Waibuta, says there is no movement in stock because of the low buying price.

"At the moment, the farm price of a kilogram of waka is F$ 16 which was once selling at F$ 30," said Mr. Waibuta.

(NOTE: F$ 2.0725 = US$ 1.00 on March 9, 2000)

The ministry said yaqona production during the last quarter of 1999 increased significantly due to favorable weather conditions.

It is doing its best to increase production. Four tikinas in the Northern Division -- including Vuna, Cakaudrove and Wainikeli on Taveuni and the Laucala tikina -- have 506 hectares (1,265 acres) of yaqona plantation.

The ministry of agriculture also said that a total of 217 tons of yaqona was produced last year, which is 72 percent of the 1999 target.

The price in the local market is believed to be remaining high because local demand remains high. A kilo of yaqona in the local market remains at F$ 30 to F$ 35.

"The local market now dictates the price instead of the pharmaceutical market. Even though farmers were saddened by the decline in price in the overseas market, the local municipal market price has brought rays of hope," said Mr. Waibuta.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/Fijilive.

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