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Farm boy finds greener pastures

Maikeli Seru
Friday, February 09, 2018

PEOPLE migrate for many reasons.

Most move abroad from their home country to look for a better life.

Some cross the seas because of political instability in their countries, or for better education for them and, or for their children, or employment.

It is all for a better life than what they are experiencing at home.

Some become successful and some fail. Some even land on the wrong side of the law in their adopted homes.

But for Davendra Naidu, formerly of Lautoka, moving to New Zealand more than two decades ago was no regret.

He owns the Bobby's Kava Dealers in Auckland, New Zealand.

He buys 200 kilogram of yaqona from Fiji every month to sell in New Zealand.

That's about $F100 ($NZ70) per kilogram.

But the road to setting up business in a foreign land for Bobby, as he is well known to his friends, was a struggle.

Now he owns his kava retail business and owns three properties, two of which are on rent.

"It was through hard work," he said while packing yaqona packets.

"We grew up in a sugarcane farm in Lautoka. It was a tough life which was filled with struggles. After school, we used to look after the cattle, and tend to the sugarcane fields.

"It was a hard life. After school we used to work on the farm until dark," he said.

He operates from his home, a double storey which houses his family and a flat at the back of the compound which is also for rent.

On his driveway are parked two top of the range four-wheeldrive vehicles and a car.

"I was a farm boy in Lautoka who never dreamt that I will own these luxuries. When we migrated as a family to New Zealand, I started business here by setting up a video shop which specialised in Bollywood movies.

"We came here on December 21, 1989. We came here through my elder brother who was a former national rep, Gajend Naidu. We came looking for a better future.

"It was a hard life and we had a big family. Nine of us children and our parents, so eleven of us lived in our small home in Lautoka. Gajend came to NZ in 1991 and over the years, the whole family came to New Zealand.

"I have three children who are all studying in New Zealand. Education here is good, but we have to work hard. Those who do not work hard will not be successful."

He said the kava market in Auckland had recorded steady growth in the past years.

"I diverted to selling kava after I saw the demand and the market. There are a lot of Fiji people here and they always want to drink kava. It was hard when I started because back then, even though the market was there, there were not much people who came to buy yaqona.

"We struggled in the first three to four years, but I worked hard because I know hard work will be repaid one day.

"I continued and also bought properties. The first house I bought was in 1999. It cost $250,000 and the value has increased over the years. It now has a value of about one million dollars. I now have three properties, one for residential and two commercial which are rented for business. They each have a value of a million dollar each.

"I import 200 kilogram of yaqona from Fiji per month. They are good and strong kava and I advise Fijians to work hard in order to have better lives."

Significance of kava

Kava, the mixed portion of yaqona, is widely consumed as a beverage informally and in traditional ceremonies.

Bundles of the dried roots are presented as a ceremonial offering (sevusevu) when entering villages or for other significant occasions, reported.

Over 21,000 farms grow kava which is worth an estimated $F66 million per year.

Exports in 2014 were valued at $F7.5m.

Fiji exports yaqona to other Pacific nations, New Zealand, the European Union, USA, and some Asian nations.

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