FIJI CASSAVA PRICES DROP

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, July 12) – While the demand for cassava is increasing, prices are dropping, a cassava exporter revealed yesterday.

[PIR editor’s note: According to a Purdue University webpage, cassava is a woody shrub which originated from South America and is grown for its highly nutritious tuberous root. The plant is now widespread throughout the tropics from Africa to Asia, India and the Pacific.]

Food Processor (Fiji) Ltd director Brij Lal said because of the growing demand, the price per kilogram of cassava was decreasing.

He said a kilogram of cassava was previously FJ$1.40 [US$.89], but it was now FJ$1.20 [US$.77].

"We are making a lot of sales but no profit," he said.

But acting Agriculture Officer Chandra Prakash said the market price for cassava was still good and encouraged farmers to export.

The ministry said 1,714 tonnes of cassava was exported last year at the value of FJ $2.07 million [US$1.32 million].

In 2005, 1,799 tonnes was exported at the value of FJ$1.82 million [US$1.16 million].

Mr Prakash said cassava farming had a big potential in Fiji. Its demand in the local and international markets was increasing daily.

He said the white variety of cassava fetched between 50-60 cents per kilogram in the local market, whereas the yellow variety was sold at 80 cents.

Cassava prices per kilogram in Labasa, Lautoka and Suva municipal markets are 60cents, $2 and 93 cents respectively.

He said, for agro-processing, the middlemen buy cassava from contracted farmers for processing at FJ45cents per kilogram. For agro-processing, cassava is harvested at seven months whereas for export market, it is harvested after nine to 10 months.

The yellow variety, which tasted better than the white one, is very scarce. Most farmers do not have the planting materials for yellow variety since they are not aware of its greater price value, he said.

Cassava is exported to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Some of the major exporters are Waisali Farm Produce, Produce Processors and Garden City.

Mr Prakash said the Chinese community dominates cassava farming on a large scale in Fiji. Under good management practices, cassava could yield up to 20 tonnes per hectare.

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com.

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