HE has been a vegetable farmer since childhood.
But the way he sees things now as far as vegetable farming is concerned, there is a difference compared to the past.
Considering the dwindling income and the rising costs of planting vegetables, Shiu Raj decided to diversify into tobacco farming to supplement his income.
Mr Raj, 63, of Raunitogo on Valley Rd in Sigatoka, has been planting vegetables on a five-acre piece of leased land.
His son Rajesh Raj sells the vegetables to vendors or middlemen at the Suva market every Thursday.
"I've been a vegetable farmer since I was very small.
"But compared to five or 10 years ago, vegetable farming is not profitable now," he said.
"The cost of fertiliser and other farming inputs is quite high now and there is also a problem in getting water for the vegetable farm.
"A water pump from a separate borehole has not been working for about three years now and complaints to the concerned authorities have fallen on deaf ears."
Mr Raj said he had been using water from a borehole for the family's use to water his vegetable farm.
"I decided to diversify and start planting suki (tobacco) about two years ago to supplement the family income and it has helped to some extent.
"The crop is ready in three months and after harvesting, we hang the tobacco plants to dry for about three weeks. Then the leaves are taken out and rolled into bundles.
"It takes a whole day to roll a 10 kilogram bundle. A kilogram of suki fetches between $40 and $60."
Mr Raj said many people were unaware that there was a season to plant suki — between May and July — and that only one crop could be harvested in a year.
On grading the suki, he said the leaves on and towards the top of the plant were grade one while the leaves at the bottom were grade two.
With 10 years of his native land lease left to expire, Mr Raj hopes to make the most out of his vegetable and suki farm.
Like many other families, his future and that of his family depends on the renewal of the land leases.