Sunday, March 20, 2016

More from Seona - this time about food

from the Fiji Times:

Guts in the face of scarcity

Seona Smiles
Sunday, March 20, 2016
IN response to the post-Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston price increases for vegetables I decided to review our food security situation. It was not encouraging.
There is the amazing self-harvesting tamarind tree that guarantees we will never be a household without imli chutney or a nice South Indian rasam soup.
Self-harvesting because perhaps the one good thing Winston did was to strip it of all its tamarind pods. The drawback is that you can only eat so much imli, and you really need to have something to eat it with. That was the problem with most of the edibles in the compound.
We could at least have a nice cup of lemon grass tea with whatever we could find to eat, provided no maniac with a whippersnapper didn't yet again reduce it to a stub.
And I can always flavour a tomato salad with some nice basil if tomatoes ever again cost less than a new car.
I've got a nice basil because when I bought a lovely mahogany sapling for our Christmas tree last year, the nurseryman felt such pity for the family that he gave me a free Thai basil.
In the event the mahogany was sent to flourish elsewhere and replaced by a model that is recognisably a proper Christmas tree and capable of withstanding the decorating activities of pre-schoolers and cats.
The basil, however, is doing beautifully in a pot on the front veranda and seems to have ambitions of becoming big enough for a Christmas tree itself.
However the kapoor creeper, that is a herbal medicine for relieving colds and coughs, and is also a good sage substitute, appears to have crept away from my garden.
In fact most plants that you usually can't beat off with a stick seem strangely reluctant to burgeon in my compound.
I have to fumble in the undergrowth to find even a few leaves of our shy curry leaf tree. The birds know where the chillies are and leave me only pathetically pecked remnants. And though we do have fruit trees, we must share with the beka, who now abuse each other all night over the little that Winston left.
Not that I never see much ripe fruit because every season children swoop even before the bats and pick them totally green to eat with salt and chilli powder with every evidence of enjoyment. Bleaah.
In fact, we've had hardly any homegrown fruit since about two and a half minutes after I got the food dryer.
The venture had an unfortunate start when it blew up with a load of tomatoes on board, something I put down to all the labels and instruction booklet being in Korean.
With perseverance and a certain amount of imagination I finally produced a semi-splendid collection of dried mango pieces.
Tremendously encouraged, I went to get more, lots more, mangoes. I planned to have bottles and bags of dried fruit that would see us through hurricanes, droughts and floods for years.
Not a one was there to find — the mango season had come to an abrupt halt.
Now, it seems, much else have halted in the market stalls of Suva although I don't quite understand why.
According to reliable reports, most of the vegetable production areas that serve Suva were largely undamaged by Winston.
That farmers should be making a bit more for produce that may be in short supply is reasonable.
However market vendors say they are being charged such high prices for produce they have to get stall rental relief and increase the price to the customers.
Then who exactly is getting the profit from $15 gobi cabbages, $3.50 bundles of Chinese cabbage, $6 bundles of long bean, $2 chilli heaps that are more like ant hills and why, in the wake of the hurricane have some imported vegies and other products disappeared or shot up in cost?
At this point I have acquired two packets of seeds, but in my heart I know my cabbage and carrots will not look anything like the picture on the front, even if they do come up.
I should just give the seeds to the ROC Market collection and let the real farmers do the growing in the hope that the prices will drop a little by the time the new plants are producing.
When, we hope, other supermarket products and hardware items return to their lower, pre hurricane prices.
I suppose that will happen around about the time hell freezes over and opportunistic price gougers get a conscience.
If you want to know the names of the culprits who have been fined for ripping off people, no use waiting for the Commerce Commission to tell you because their reports let the traders remain anonymous, and their names are missing from newspaper articles.
But go to the Consumer Council for their newsletter or to their Facebook page, they've got enough guts to let you know who's taking advantage of us.

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