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Eggplants flood market

Maciu Malo
Saturday, February 16, 2013

VEGETABLE farmers in the Sigatoka Valley say they need help to secure markets for eggplants.

Sanjay Ram, 34, of Jubanikeli said eggplants were maturing but they need a good price to break even.

"Middlemen come to our farms and buy a 25kg bag of eggplants for only $2 and then sell each bag for $8 to $10," Mr Ram said.

"This is the eggplant season, unfortunately, we can't sell. We have been told the eggplant export market is temporarily closed. Farmers are losing out a lot and the financial losses are discouraging us from planting eggplants."

Another farmer Rakesh Rao, 32, of Loma echoed similar sentiments.

"I hardly make a profit from selling a 25kg bag of eggplants for $2. I have labourers to pay and also a family to support, so in the future I won't be keen on eggplant farming," said Mr Rao.

"Most eggplants are ready for harvest but I haven't secured a market. I'm thinking of going to Suva. I have been farming for the past 15 years and this is one of the toughest times I have faced in securing a market."

Mr Rao said about 20 eggplant farmers in the valley faced similar problems.

Ministry of Agriculture deputy secretary Uraia Waibuta said export of the vegetable was stopped because of quarantine issues with Biosecurity New Zealand.

"They identified certain pests. Biosecurity NZ came last week and audited pathways and seen areas which we should improve on. We are waiting for the outcome of this visit. Farmers have certain requirements that need to be met and they need to follow protocol and pathway so that issues like this do not arise," he said.

"When there's a stop in exports, local markets will be flooded and there is limited demand in the local market. Depending on the outcome of the visit by BS NZ, exports should be restored."





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