Fijian’s are very lucky that their fresh fruits and vegetables are in abundance and for the most part, grown organically without pesticides and herbicides. They are also extremely lucky that this organic produce is cheap – dirt cheap compared to Western countries.
Tropical pineapples, papaya and watermelon sell for as little as USD$0.50 per kilogram, whilst in Australia and the US, the cost of organic foods is up to 70% more than the mass-produced, chemically-laced produce available in most supermarkets. Why? Organic farming in the West is labour intensive and the smaller production quantities and yields means more expense.
In the US, organic farmers also don’t receive the massive subsidies that the commercial growers and agrichemical agricultural businesses get – funded by the taxpayer – to promote a cheaper but more inferior product. The subsidies were originally introduced after World War II to prevent food shortages and encouraged the use of chemical sprays to prolong the life of the produce and reduce spoilage – thus helping yields and creating more supply.
But organic produce is only more expensive if we look at only the true cost of food production. When the indirect costs of conventional food production such as replacement of eroded soils, clean up of polluted water, costs of health care, environmental cost of artificial pesticide production and disposal, are factored in, organic food can be seen as much cheaper. It will also be packed with up to 60% more vitamins, minerals, enzymes and trace nutrients, and be free from a cocktail of up to 40 different chemicals, waxes and insecticides
The downside to organic produce is you have to use it straight away, getting it quickly from farm to table. In Fiji, the farms are very close to the urban areas, so delivery times are short – much shorter than in the West but the end product is so much more superior and better for us. The other downside is that organic fruits and vegetables may not look as pretty and perfect as non-organic produce.
How strange that as consumers, we have also been conditioned to only buy perfect-looking fruit without spots or discolouration, somewhat like how we see our fellow human beings? Imperfection equates to ugliness. I find it strange that we won’t buy a yellow-green orange, only a bright orange one – despite the fact the inside tastes exactly the same. Black spots, insect marks or any imperfection in the skin is also avoided. The Fijian people are amused at the fact that most Westerners judge their fellow man by their skin color or looks – and not at the beauty of the inside. How poetic.
Lance Seeto is the Australian Executive Chef at Castaway Island resort in the South Pacific islands of Fiji, and a respected Food and Travel writer for the country’s biggest selling newspaper, The Fiji Times. He is also one of the first foreigners to hold a high-ranking and prestigious role as a cultural ambassador to one of the ancient country’s Paramount Chieftains. Lance is currently working on his highly anticipated first book contrasting the organic lifestyle and diet of native Fijians with the processed, chemically-laced foods of Western civilisation. Due for release in the first half of 2012, “Food In My Belly, Sunshine In My Heart: A Chef’s Life-Changing Discovery Of The Way The World Really Should Be” goes beyond food to challenge and confront the Western lifestyle as he takes readers on a life-changing journey to show why a developing country is so much more happier living a non-Western life. His philosophical, lifestyle and pro-organic seminars attract a live global audience each week, and have been broadcast across the Asia Pacific on Radio Australia.