SHOPPING at the local market in Lautoka used to be a joyous occasion for me.
I loved the sight of an abundance of colours, from the varying shades of green vegetables to the bright yellow and orange fruits.
Recently, and as any customer will tell, an excursion to the market can be excruciatingly painful.
Not only have the colours disappeared, but the heaps are smaller and the prices sky high.
Gone are the days when almost all vegetables could be bagged at $1 a heap.
Today the $3 or $4 is the usual reply when you enquire about prices.
This week the The Fiji Times took part in a brisk survey to determine why customers have to dig deeper into their pockets.
Supply is very low right now. We dont have a lot of suppliers for long bean at the moment but the ones that do supply it are charging a lot for it, said Rajesh Naidu of Lautoka, a vendor for more than 10 years.
You might be able to buy Chinese cabbage at $1 and $2 bundles.
Thats the lowest its going to go. Usually in the past, a bundle of Chinese cabbage would be 50 cents, so customers are still paying more, he said.
Mr Naidu said the cost of carrots, eggplant, spinach and other locally grown produce will remain for the next few weeks.
Another wholesaler from Tavarau, Ba, sells bananas for a living at the Lautoka Municipal Market.
I used to buy a total of 55 crates of bananas from my supplier in Ra but now I can only buy 20 to 25 crates, said Mahesh Chand.
And because of that, I have to sell one heap at $3 to $4 depending on the quality and the quantity. The cheapest heap I sell is $2, he said.
Root crops have also been subjected to high prices at the market.
A 10 kg bag of cassava usually cost us around $20 to $25 but now we are paying $35 for each sack, says Vinea Nabuka.
A vendor at the Lautoka market, Ms Nabuka said the costs of a sack of yam and dalo have also increased over the past few weeks.
We get our supplies from the Ra highlands, Rakiraki and sometimes right from Nausori, she said.
Factoring in the costs of transport and fuel while trying to make a profit, Ms Nabuka said she was not surprised with the high costs.
These are hard times and people are trying to make a profit, so they need to raise the prices, she said.
Another crop seller, Salata Lolokula said her supply of vudi had dropped significantly.
I used to get about five bags of a 10kg sack of vudi but now I get only two bags, the mother of two said.
During the short survey, one thing was clear among the vendors that were interviewed.
They all agreed that their current difficulties were a direct consequence of the recent floods in the Western Division.
Mr Naidu said his business has suffered while Mr Chand agreed that things had become worse.
Their root crop counterparts also believed that things would be hard for them and their families over the next few weeks as vegetable farmers at the Sigatoka Valley, Ba, Ra and Rakiraki struggle to restore their farms.
As the plight of our growers continues, customers should also be forewarned of the difficult times ahead.
Costs of our vegetables will still be high so wherever you can, make use of any available plot of land surrounding your home.