From humble beginnings
31 March, 2023, 4:30 pm
From the barber shop in the capital city cutting hair as a young man to his home on Taveuni, Atish Prasad is now one of the biggest dalo exporters from the Garden Island of Fiji.
The 28-year-old started with $2000 as investment selling new tyres from his home in Nalele before moving to the sub-urban area of Naqara and is also the first exporter on Taveuni to own a crop processing plant which cost him $300,000 in installation cost.
The plant, installed last year was a self-funded project that he described as an imperative development to meet increasing sale of taro.
A dalo farmer for more than a decade, born and bred in Qarawalu on the South of Taveuni, Mr Prasad exports 60 tonnes of dalo every week from his base in Nalele and buys dalo at $5 a kilogram from farmers.
Having started his dalo export business King’s Farm Food Production last year, he now employs 68 workers from nearby villages.
“I’m new to exporting business and we process the crops here which also include vudi, cassava and I am looking at other crops as this would economically benefit farmers and villagers on Taveuni,” he said.
“Since we started, we have been exporting 60 tonnes every week and that’s the biggest from Taveuni.
“I finished my secondary school year in Bucalevu Secondary and then I went to Suva where I started as a barber, cutting hair in Suva then did other jobs before I returned home.
“I wanted to do something for myself so with the $2000 I had, I started my first business of selling spare tyres and then I moved to kava, dalo and now cutting roofing iron.”
Seeing how villagers on the island travelled to Savusavu or Labasa to buy roofing iron for their houses, Mr Prasad decided to venture into this business.
“So I started this year and am buying the materials from China with the machine to cut and shape the roofing iron,” he said.
“It’s colour-bond roofing iron and we sell it at $5 a feet and so far we have been selling to not only farmers but other villagers as well.
“The demand is here on the island and everyday we receive orders for roofing iron. So we cut as the orders come and I have not regretted moving back home to do my own business.”
He employs, mostly women from Lovonivonu, Vuniuto, Nalele and other surrounding settlements.
“When I started my business, I made sure that women in these areas are supported and they make up most number of my employees. These women work very well with us especially my wife,” he said.
“They can be trusted with work and in return they support their families too. Some are single mothers, widows and I am happy that we could provide some form of employment so they can support their children.”
Mr Prasad said with this month’s International Women’s Day, he also organised an event to thank his team for their support.
“We need to look after them and support them. They work three shifts so our factory doesn’t close because the crops are being processed throughout – day and night,” he said.
“The exporters here send their crops to Suva where it’s processed and exported. But I do all that here, pack it and then send to Suva where it is exported.
“We also have a yard in Suva where our products are kept for export.” Mr Prasad believes it takes commitment and dedication to be successful.
He continues to face challenges in his business. “We have the disease that affects our yaqona farm and recently I lost about 1000 plants and that’s a loss for our business,” he said.
“There are other challenges like transporting. For example we have only one trip per week for shipping services so sometimes our crops get loaded but if there is no space then we have to wait for the next trip.
“Those are some things we face here. But thank God that I don’t allow it to keep me down as I keep moving on as a businessman.”
Recently assisted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Prasad is positive that more help will be given to farmers by this new Government.
This week, a team from the ministry visited him to get feedback about his business and see progress.