Growers forced to relocate farm

Gorg farmers and their families in Navonu, Cakaudrove. Picture: SERAFINA SILAITOGA

MOST yaqona farmers in Cakaudrove are relocating their farms because of the increasing number of thefts of yaqona plants.

The situation has also led to scuffles between farmers on night patrol with suspects on the farms.

Farmers in Navonu, the hotspot area in the province, have uprooted their yaqona plants with the plan of starting a new farm in a different area.

If farmers identify the suspects, no mercy is shown as farmers lead brawls and attack suspects in the settlement or even in Savusavu Town where most are seen hanging out with friends.

Farmer Benedito Vakadranu said this has happened in the past.

“Ever since the price of yaqona went up after TC Winston in 2016, stealing of yaqona has not stopped at all,” he said.

“Farmers have fallen victims to this situation and we are just tired because all our hard work and sweat goes down the drain.

“Many times farmers only find out about the stolen yaqona when they get to their farms and it’s sad because this is our only source of income.”

Mr Vakadranu said farmers had become financial victims because when they planted their yaqona, most had drawn up a budget based on the expected income.

“And most of us have children in school, especially tertiary studies, so we depend on this yaqona to cater for financial expenses,” he said.

Another farmer, Epeli Banicakau, has lost about $32,000 as a result of stolen yaqona plants from his farm.

“The yaqona plants were between two and four years old and it hurt me so much because I had big plans for my family,” he said.

“Our families have suffered a lot from the situation because our financial plans get disrupted.

“I have uprooted all my yaqona from the old site and shifted my farm closer to my house.”

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