PEOPLE: Verma’s fresh dose of natural drinks

Hikmat Singh Verma, left, with his wife Usha Kiran at their Cane Juice stall at MHCC in Suva. Picture: RAKESH KUMAR

In a bid to help Fijians in their battle with non-communicable diseases, Hikmat Singh Verma set up a stall at MHCC where he sells pure cane juice and green coconut juice.

The Wainibokasi, Nausori, resident gained popularity as Fijians passing by stopped and indulged in a drink or two.

Mr Verma has a sugarcane farm in Nausori and he produces enough to ensure his customers get a fresh dose daily.

“I learnt cane farming during my childhood in Tavua as I am a canefarmer’s son,” he said.

“After my father passed on, I took over the farm and because of my passion, I won a few farming awards in my district.” After completing high school at Tavua College, he went to India to pursue further studies.

“When I returned from India, I moved to Suva and settled here.

“In 1989, I worked as a journalist at The Fiji Times and then moved into the teaching profession.

“I also worked as a radio announcer at the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation.”

Mr Verma, now a retiree, said he learnt about the cane juice business while he was studying in India.

“I have been to several other Asian countries where I have seen how people use sugarcane juice.

“I kept learning about the benefi ts of the juice and also learnt how to prepare it.

“Keeping that in mind, I started this venture in 2017.

“To do that, I imported the required machines from abroad.”

Mr Verma said he tested the cane juice business by setting up stalls at various festivals around Viti Levu.

“Initially, I was touring Viti Levu and was selling juice in festivals, that was in 2016.

“When I saw the demand from the public and constant enquiries that started to come in, I started searching for a centrally located venue and was fortunate to get this place at MHCC in the hub of the city in 2017.

“I grow sugar cane on my farm in Nausori and coconuts are supplied to me by villagers and settlements near my home.

“You will be surprised to know that I have about 23 species and over one hundred tonnes of cane on my farm.”

Mr Verma claimed his unique concoction of pure cane juice blended with wild ginger or “layalaya” was very beneficial.

“In India, they add ginger and lemon in the sugarcane juice, so I decided to add lemon grass and other spices in it.

“I have introduced pure cane juice blended with wild ginger layalaya grown in Fiji.

“I introduced that when COVID-19 came into the country because I have been told that layalaya is an immune booster.

“Lots of people are now drinking layalaya fruit punch with cane juice.”

Mr Verma said all his products were pure with no added sugar or water.

“We keep our products in a very hygienic way and it is processed very hygienically.”

He said his health beneficial juices include cane juice layalaya fruit punch, pure cane juice blended with ginger, lemon grass and other mints, cane juice with Indian spices, plain cane juice and pure coconut water.

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