Vegetable prices soar amid crisis

WEST senior agricultural officer Vinesh Kumar has raised serious concerns about the escalating prices of vegetables at some municipal markets in the Western Division.

A survey conducted by this newspaper at the Lautoka Municipal Market yesterday revealed prices of goods had increased by about 500 per cent in some cases.

When contacted yesterday, Mr Kumar said agricultural officers would look into the issue.

“We will be closely monitoring the situation because gone are the days when middlemen could artificially escalate prices and take advantage of situations like Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston,” he said.

Vendors at the market said they had been forced to pay exorbitant prices for basic vegetables.

Lebua Sunia, a vegetable seller for the past 15 years, said while prices were expected to increase after natural disasters, the level of mark-up this time had been alarming.

“Vegetables that people buy every day have gone up by huge amounts,” the 50-year-old said.

Ms Sunia said English cabbage wholesale prices had increased from $30 a bag to $60, spinach from $8 a dozen to $24, Chinese cabbage from $20 a plastic to $30 and cucumber from $30 a bag to $80.

Kaliappa Naidu, a vendor for more than 30 years, said customers needed to buy vegetables and store them while the prices were relatively cheap.

“Just before Severe TC Winston came, I could buy a bag of eggplant for anywhere between $5 and $10 a bag,” he said.

“Today, that same bag costs me between $30 to $40.”

Vegetable supply was expected to normalise in the next 4-6 months.

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