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Visitors from outer isles bring their own kava

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Dec. 24, 2009) - THE Christmas and New Year week is a time that business people make a lot of money in Fiji.

It is a time of feasting and merry making, when people spend money on food, drinks and presents.

But yaqona vendors at the Suva Market claim the weeks leading up to Christmas is a slack period for them.

[PIR editor’s note: Yaqona, Kava, ‘Awa, or Sakau is an ancient crop of the different Island states in the Pacific. The name is used to refer to both the plant and the beverage produced from its roots. Traditionally it is prepared by either chewing, grinding or pounding the roots of the kava plant. Yaqona roots are sold in all of Fiji's markets. The plant from which the roots come from is known as Piper methysticum and grows best on the steep slopes of hills in wet regions. The plant is usually cut between 2 and 5 years of age (though plants of older age grow in strength and flavour) and the roots cleaned and dried in the sun. Yaqona is still regarded by Fijians as a traditional drink and although it is not used under circumstances as in the pre-European days, some old traditions are maintained.]

Aman Singh said the reason behind this was that people received a free supply from the islands and villages.

He said sales normally picked up around February.

"A lot of people come from the islands bringing their own supply of grog," he said. "Every Christmas we experience the same thing - slack business.

"We expect business to pick up in two months time after the new school year has begun."

Another vendor Asinate Navunisarau said business was very slow.

"Since the cyclone last week everything has been slow," she said. "Even the food sales are quite slow.

"Also by this time last year we made a lot of money because civil servants had received a backpay."

Vikash Chand said one of the reasons for the low sales was that there were a lot of yaqona sellers.

"This is our slack period," he said.

"But this has nothing to do with the cyclone.

"There are a lot of yaqona sellers now compared to before, so people have many choices, especially from those who sell yaqona from their homes."

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