Winston results in flood of kava onto Fiji market
As a result of cyclone Winston Fiji's kava growers are being forced to bring all their crop to market.
Growers of kava in Fiji are flooding the market with their goods as Cyclone Winston uprooted their plants, forcing them to harvest.
On Taveuni, Fiji's 'garden island' famous for its rich volcanic soil, kava, or 'yaqona' growers supply some of the most wanted kava varieties to the rest of the country.
Alex Perrottet was on Taveuni and spoke to local farmers.
ALEX: "We're just climbing this mountain with a big cross on top, just to have a better view of what was Lavena village. Petero, what do you do for a living?"
PETERO: "I'm a farmer."
AP: "You're a farmer, and what do you farm?"
AP: "Yaqona. And what will you do now for some income?"
PETERO: "Just harvest my yaqona now."
AP: "People say bad things about the grog but without it, half of you wouldn't have a livelihood."
PETERO: "Yeah, that's what's most us, our source of income. Most of the yaqona, we just sell it in Fiji."
AP: "And where do you sell it?"
PETERO: "There's plenty of middle men who buys yaqona, from Viti Levu and the capital city."
AP: "And it comes all the way from Taveuni to Suva?"
PETERO: "Yeah, that's right. More people need yaqona, before the hurricane, there's not much yaqona. Much dealer, coming around to buy yaqona, that's why there's a small measure of yaqona around."
AP: "Are you saying there's a higher demand now, after the cyclone?"
PETERO: "After a few months, there will be higher demand, but now there's plenty of yaqona, harvesting of yaqona after the hurricane..."
AP: "So you're saying because the cyclone broke the plants then you have to harvest it now?"
PETERO: "Right, yes we have to harvest it."
AP: "You have no other choice?"
PETERO: "No other choice, we have to replant, harvest now, and replant, that's what we are doing now."
Petero Mere is one of many harvesters with sliced pieces of kava root drying on corrugated iron all over Taveuni. His wife, Kelera, who runs the local tourist attraction, the Lavena Coastal Walk and Lodge, says at least kava, being a root, can be sold, unlike the fields of ruined fruit. She says it's time to start again.
KELERA: "So that's all the kava. Kava is one of the main sources of income for the village. And here they are all destroyed also."
ALEX: "And here they are just starting again to dry it out."
KELERA: "Yes, we are going to start it again because if we leave it for another one week, the thing damaged. So even the men are starting to plant, because all the foods we depend too, all destroyed also."
The Nature's Way Cooperative, based in Nadi, helps farmers prepare their crops for export. Kyle Stice was assessing the damage in the Western Division, where crops were totally wiped out north of Lautoka, but some were salvaged in Nadi and many more in Sigatoka. He explains that the speed of the cyclone and its lack of flooding rains mitigated the damage.
KYLE STICE: "...This was a fast-moving cyclone which means that the rain didn't stick around long enough to cause intense flooding so in that case we were very very fortunate. Not only the flooding, but even if we had had another six or eight hours of rain, the saturation point in the soil would have been such that the wind that we did experience would have knocked down a lot more trees, so we can say for these areas, Sigatoka, Nadi it was a dry cyclone..."
But on the other side of the country in the northern and eastern islands, the cyclone was more intense, and brought with it storm surges and tidal waves. Whole islands look like they've been burned by the salt water and wind. Apart from the short and stocky pineapple, in Taveuni, all crops are gone, and villagers are praying that tourists continue to visit so they have something to live on. But at least, in the months to come, more and more dealers are due to return to Taveuni to purchase the island's now famous 'Winston' crop of kava.
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