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SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 14, 1999 – PACNEWS)---Agricultural Ministers and officials from four kava producing Pacific Island countries meeting in Tonga have agreed to support the establishment of a Pacific Islands Kava Council.

The officials also agreed that the council would be officially introduced at a meeting of Pacific agricultural officials to be held in the Vanuatu capital, Port Vila, in July.

The agreement was reached at a meeting -- held in Nuku’alofa on April 27 -- that was convened to discuss the state of the kava industry in Pacific Island countries.

Ministers from Vanuatu and Samoa and ministerial representatives from Fiji and Tonga agreed to urge kava-producing countries to ban the sale of kava plants overseas. The policy action was taken in view of the shortage of planting materials and to prevent non-Pacific Island countries from growing kava and undermining the Pacific market over the long term.

They agreed to support the principle of Pacific Island producing countries adopting one uniform price for kava exports in order to avoid international buyers exploiting price differences among the producers.

The Ministers also agreed to take steps to stop Hawaiian growers from selling kava cuttings.

This follows reports that Hawai‘i has sent kava cuttings to Chile and Guatemala, and that the two countries now also have started growing the root crop.

It also was agreed that kava-producing countries should support the creation of national quality control systems to assure that kava exports fully meet the requirements of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

They further agreed to support efforts to strengthen the crop’s intellectual property rights, by patenting kava and its by-products for the benefit of Pacific Islanders – and not just overseas interests.

Pacific Island Governments and regional organizations, the ministers said, should continue to place a high priority on the production and marketing of kava because of the wide economic and social benefits that flow to rural island producers.

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