2018-2019 National Budget: Food prices a concern

Market vendor Sera Urulo. Picture: SHAYAL DEVI

ORDINARY Lautoka residents are concerned about escalating food prices and hope the 2018-2019 National Budget will address this issue.

In random interviews conducted yesterday, The Fiji Times found that people wanted measures and policies that will allow them to cope with high food prices.

Farmer and market vendor Kimi Tamani felt more assistance to farmers was needed.

The Waidalice native travels to Lautoka once every three weeks and brings with him produce like cassava, dalo, cucumber, rourou and ota. He said transportation costs and grocery shopping chewed up a huge chunk of his earnings.

Single mother Sera Urulo has spent the past seven years as a market vendor. After the passing of her husband in 2007, she said it was important for her to secure some form of employment to sustain her family.

“I have a son and he works to support himself so I sell at the market,” the 52-year-old said.

“If it is a good week, I usually earn over $100 but on slow days, it can be well below $80.

About $30.60 is taken out for our market fees every week and whatever is left is used for my groceries, transportation and other costs.” She said more help should be directed towards older people and single mothers.

She said groceries needed to be made more affordable.

Nailaga, Ba resident Paulo Dansey, 30, who works as a wheelbarrow boy at the Lautoka Bus Stand, said more initiatives were needed to assist youths, especially those who were unemployed.

“There are currently five wheelbarrow boys at the bus stand and I have been here for eight years,” the father-of-two said. “Usually, I earn $80 a week and this is what I use to support my family.”

Ice-cream seller Sani Deo said he was crossing his fingers for lower grocery prices and that a wider range of medicines be made available for the elderly under the free medicine scheme.

Hubragi, 71, from Drasa, Lautoka said the amount of money received by those on social welfare was not enough. She said since she only received $100 a month, she had to budget for her medicine, groceries and transportation.

Rajen Kumar, said the minimum wage for security officers needed to increase. Being a security guard for the past eight years, he said the minimum wage rate of $2.68 per hour was not enough to support his family of seven.

He said the amount of money he earned in a week often matched the cost of grocery shopping to feed his family, with nothing to spare for savings.

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