VANUATU PLANS BILL TO REGULATE EMBATTLED KAVA INDUSTRY

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PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Nov. 1, 2002 - Pacific Weekly Review/PINA News Online)---Vanuatu is moving to regulate its kava industry amid threats to the fast-growing business from outside.

Following the ban of kava and its related products by major buyer countries, Vanuatu Minister for Agriculture Steven Kalsakau wants to table a bill in the next parliamentary session due to start on Tuesday.

Kalsakau plans to regulate the planting, the harvesting, the conservation, the packaging and the marketing of kava to local and international markets.

According to the Root Crops Geneticist at the Department of Agriculture in Port Vila, Vincent Lebot, Vanuatu has nobody else to blame because the industry is so disorganized.

The present situation warranted the intervention of the authorities to regulate the industry, he said.

"Kava is a very complicated issue because we don’t deal with the same kava product in Vanuatu, Fiji or even in Germany and France," said Lebot.

He added that it depends a lot on chemical composition and contents of the kava or pills people drink.

He said that in Vanuatu, people in the rural areas know very meticulously how to prepare and drink all species of kava, and they don’t seem to have problems with it.

Kalsakau, who is a former director of agriculture, has told kava industry partners in Vanuatu: "We have to clean up and regulate our kava industry first before we look at conquering overseas markets."

The damage caused by the ban imposed on kava from the Pacific by the Europeans has a big impact on small island economies and it won¹t be easy to redress the situation overnight.

Yet, kava has been used in Europe since the 1890s, when kava was first imported from then German Samoa.

Last month the Chinese government allocated a grant to fund studies from which results could counter claims made by the Europeans.

Fiji is also calling for scientific tests to be conducted on kava as exports to overseas markets continue to drop.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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