Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (Mar. 31) - It is disheartening for farmers to find out after harvesting their crops that there is an over-supply in the market.

Take for example the case of dalo (taro) farmers who are forced to reduce the price of a bundle because of the abundance of root crops. A bundle which would normally sell for $12 to $15 on a Saturday at the market is now priced between $8 to $10. The same price reduction goes for cassava either sold in baskets or in heaps.

After all the hard work and long hours they put in tending to the farms, their hope is always they would get the best price for their farm produce.

The onus is on the government to find more markets overseas for root crops such as dalo and ensure a stable and long-term arrangement with overseas buyers.

Some of these farmers had heeded the call by the government and political leaders to leave the urban centers and return to the land for farming.

Some are even supplied such things as dalo tops by the ministry of agriculture to help them start off their farms. But when it is harvest time, they find out that the market, including the overseas buyers, is not big enough for everyone to enjoy a good return for their trouble.

Of course not all the root crops would meet export requirements and these have to rely on local buyers.

It should be one of the responsibilities of the Agricultural Marketing Authority although only recently established to identify new local markets for dalo and other farm produce, which do not meet export requirements.

The authority should assist these farmers who cannot sell their farm produce.

Because most of the farmers dwell in rural areas, a major problem is the transportation cost. Sometimes they will be lucky to break even after selling the root crops for reduced prices and paying for the cost of the hired vans and carriers, which transport the farm produce to town.

The competition provided by Chinese farmers living mostly around the town and city and supplying the same market everyday gets tougher. They have easier access to the municipal markets than the farmer say up in Wainimala.

The Authority should be able to suggest ways to subsidizes the transport costs and allow the farmers to save some money to take home.

The Authority can also help with the distribution of root crops so that maximum return to the farmer is guaranteed.

Anything to help these farmers enjoy using the land and earning a decent living from it will be of great benefit to the economy and their families.

April 1, 2005

Fiji Times Online: .

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