THE rising demand for export cassava in the west in recent weeks has caused a shortage in the local market.
And while the scarcity of the root crop has boosted the income of market vendors and farmers, consumers are feeling the pinch by having to fork out twice as much for a much lesser quantity.
At the Lautoka Market on Monday, Leone Roko was the only vendor found selling cassava. He said he managed to buy three bags from Ba after much bargaining.
"A bag that used to cost $25 a month ago is now sold at $50," he said.
"I buy and divide them into 15 heaps and sell these for either $7 or $10. It is expensive but I expect to sell all three bags purchased today by this afternoon as no one else is selling.
"The good thing is that I now make $50 from each bag rather than the $10 or $20 profit when there is a surplus in the market."
Mr Roko said he had to look for plantations in Ba and Lautoka because farmers in Rakiraki, Tavua and Vatukoula were now "laid back" as exporters were travelling right to their doorsteps and putting cash straight into their pockets.
"The containers are right by the plantations. Exporters are taking their trucks right to the farm. That is good news for the farmers because they don't have to leave home or spend money on transport to take their produce to the market." Two years ago farmers were reportedly paid $600 a tonne for cassava export.
In 2009, figures released by the Agriculture Ministry revealed that about 1800 tonnes of cassava valued at $2 million was exported each year.
Normally cassava sells at $5 per heap or 90 cents per kilogram in the local markets.
If properly managed, cassava can yield up to 20 tonnes per hectare. For agro processing the middlemen buy cassava at $0.45 per kilogram.
"It is a lucrative cash crop, easy to grow and can be harvested in a short time. If I was a farmer that's what I would be planting," said Mr Roko as he turned to serve yet another customer.