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Cost of cyclone damage continues to rise

Monday 21 March 2016 | Published in Regional

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FIJI – Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston’s impact on Fiji’s agriculture and housing now totals over US$193.6 million.

The agriculture sector incurred a loss of $98.6 million while damage to homes was about $201 million.

The cost of damage to agriculture from Tropical Cyclone Evan in 2012, according to official government data, was US$20.95 million.

The agriculture assessment is US$82.32 million more than the $60 million estimated by the UN when it launched its 90-day flash appeal two weeks ago.

Ministry of Agriculture permanent secretary Uraia Waibuta said the damage to the sector included crops, livestock and infrastructure, but excluding the sugar sector.

The sugarcane industry incurred a loss of around $56.8 million of which was estimated for crop damage and $5.7 million for farmers’ residences.

Waibuta said the Northern Division suffered the most damage and yaqona (kava), being one of the major commodities for local and export markets and of high value, sustained $116 million worth of damage.

He said it would take three years for farmers to recover from their losses, complimenting the recovery period predicted by some farmers.

“I lost about 8000 yaqona plants during the cyclone. Those included the ones that were ready for harvest and the newly-planted ones. It will take me three years to be able to harvest again,” James Sami of Qila, Taveuni, said.

Anare Ratumaiwai of Waica, also on Taveuni, said he was forced to early harvest 300 plants uprooted by the cyclone and 1200 plants were completely destroyed.

“I was hoping those 300 plants, which were planted three years ago, would be well matured next year in their fourth year. I’m going to start again from scratch and will take me at least another three years to be able to harvest my yaqona again at market value,” Ratumaiwai said.

However, Waibuta said they were thankful Kadavu, Serua, Namosi and parts of Naitasiri and Tailevu were still able to supply some of the yaqona to the local market.

Dalo, another major commodity, incurred losses amounting to $17.9 million, the bulk of which is in the Northern Division on Taveuni, Cakaudrove main land and parts of Ra.

Waibutu said there was about $55 million worth of dalo that could be recovered and harvested from areas in Central Tailevu, Tailevu South, Serua, Namosi, and lower Naitasiri for the local and export market.

He said it would take dalo farmers a period of nine months to one year to recover.

Vanua Balavu, Lomaiviti, Cakaudrove, Bua, Tailevu North and Ra were also identified as the most affected areas.

The interior parts of the island were also affected, including Naitasiri, Navosa and other surrounding areas in the Sigatoka Valley. - Fiji Times