Relief for vendors

Reason to smile ... Jagdish Singh is all smile at his new stalls after the launch of the Roadside Stalls Pilot Project at Vakabalea in Navua on Thursday, May 31, 2018. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

RAINY days are often the worst for roadside vendors who endure the irregular weather conditions to sell goods that feed and sustain Fijians daily. Regularly you either walk or drive past a roadside vendor sitting inside their makeshift stall that are often built with loose corrugated iron or planks that are easy to dismantle when the need arises.

It is hard maintaining a stall on the roadside as weather isn’t always favourable and with no proper ownership of stall sites, moving is always mandatory.

There seems to be hope for roadside vendors with the new standardised roadside stalls pilot project which was launched by the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama in Navua last week.

Mr Bainimarama said the stalls would give roadside vendors clean, consistent and attractive storefronts that are worthy of the high-quality Fijian grown and produced goods they had to offer customers.

“Instead of the different looking stalls or temporary tin or wooden structures some that have seen too many years and are worn down and many that could use a new layer of paint, you will now have a clean and uniform row of stalls that catch the eye of customers and passers-by,” he said.

“Government is vastly expanding the network of streetlighting throughout the country and that is giving vendors the chance to sell into the night along safe, well-lit highways across the nation.”

On the pilot phase of the program, Government will be handling over 20 semi-permanent stalls and 10 portable vendor stalls.

“The handover is just the beginning of a program and we expect to grow every year, reaching more vendors throughout the country, giving them facilities they need to run their businesses well and to operate safely from,” he said.

The stalls are made from high- quality materials and are certified by government engineers to be able to withstand Category 5 cyclone conditions. “Because we need to steadily adapt our economy to the reality of climate change and our vendors along with every Fijian deserve infrastructure and assistance that can be relied upon, even in times of severe weather,” he said.

“Under this program, there are two types of stalls, semi-permanent and portable. The portable stalls will be given to vendors who only sell produce a few days in a week and the stalls can be packed and rolled up from your homes to the roadside.

“The semi-permanent stalls will be setup in prime locations on the roadside for vendors who sell their produce on a daily basis. These semi-permanent stalls are basically permanent structures but they can be removed if there is a road development or in case of extreme weather.”

The stalls are free of charge as highlighted by the Prime Minister but are given under a lease agreement between the vendors and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism.

Roadside vendor Jagdish Kumar Singh 60 says he looks forward to being given a stall by the new pilot program.

“I’m a retired soldier and sugarcane farmer and I’ve been selling at on the roadside in Navua since 2001 and it’s always hard for roadside vendors because often our business are affected by severe weather,” Mr Singh said.

“Now a farmer I hope to sell as much as I can at the roadside because when we sell our produce to the middleman we get less cash for our hard work so this new program will help us farmers sell our own produce without relying on others.

“We like that the new stalls are clean and very hygienic and are ideal for even severe weather.”