Expensive local ‘kakai’ increases consumption of imported food

29 Sep 2012

Vanuatu Daily Post


Price tags of local food in the local markets mainly in the urban areas is one of the main reasons why more and more families will find more imported food in their plates rather than the much preached healthy local ‘kakai’.

Healthier local products are getting expensive than imported food

When celebrating this year’s World Health Day, the then Acting Minister of Health, Deputy Prime Minister, Ham Lini repeated the famous saying, “Eat more local food to stay healthy”.

While this message has been repeated over and over again many families living on the minimum wage are denied this local food and health equation as far as budget provided.

Simple calculations show that the price of the cheapest 1kg rice in the many retail shops in town is way cheaper than a small heap of manioc or taro in the markets.

A small plastic of rice (approximately 1 kg) in a residential retail shop costs around Vt 100 and can feed more people compared to a small heap of local root crop of the same price in the market.

Buying at a larger quantity won’t make much difference when 25kg of rice costs around Vt 3,000 can last some families for a whole month. A basket of manioc, taro or a bundle of banana ranges from Vt 500 to Vt 700 but unlike the quality, the quantity in each basket or bundle is smaller if compared to rice.

The same difference comes up when it comes to protein sources as a tinned fish capable of feeding an average family range from around Vt 100 to Vt 200. Such price tag can’t be found on a fresh fish or even a cut of beef of the same price will be enough to provide enough protein for an average urban family.

Observing market goers especially in the smaller residential area markets and how many would turn over price tags then move on to the next basket, bundle or heap of food, one can notice how healthier local foods are getting unaffordable for many.

Even school kids have noticed the difference of price tag when it comes to making a choice between local and imported food.

A good example is the country’s largest bilingual school in Fresh Water, during recess there is always a large flow of students to the nearest shop while small markets nearer to the school is hardly their destination.

In the shops one can get sweets, twisties, ice block, or cookies for Vt10 to Vt 30 minimum while fruits such as orange, pawpaw, uncooked peanut, coconut at the nearest market cost more.

Although a formal survey will be required to get the right statistics, the difference between the cost of healthier local foods is already one of the reasons why many mothers will go to the retail store to get something that comes in a plastic or can rather than going to the market for local food.