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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Nov. 7) – The Fiji Kava Council is disappointed with the 2006 Budget, saying the Government has disregarded the plight of indigenous kava farmers.

Council chairman Ratu Josateki Nawalowalo said although the council had made submissions to the ministries of agriculture, finance and foreign affairs, it appeared the submissions fell on deaf ears.

"I thought this would be an election budget but it appears that the very people who matter, haven't been taken into consideration," he said.

"The Government wants to spend millions on the sugar industry and yet there is no guarantee of its protection in the international market.

"It is totally different for kava, since new discoveries have shown there was cancer prevention activity in kava. Government has given to the sugar industry but it should realize that these people won't vote for them come the general election," said Ratu Josateki.

He said kava was an important commodity and not just because of its cultural importance but also of its scientific uses.

Ratu Josateki said the majority of kava dealers were Indians and they were trying to flood the market with Vanuatu kava.

"By flooding the market, they will frustrate Fijian farmers who are only trying to sell their kava, and the end result that these farmers will vote against the Government," he said.

He said people in government probably didn't come from farming backgrounds and did not understand the importance of kava to local farmers

"The council is hoping government thinks hard about what has happened here and does something about it," he said. "The Government should first help the cultivation and marketing of kava on the domestic market because it is a million dollar market," he said.

He said money from kava stands at FJ$50 million (US$29.2 million), out of which FJ$20 million (US$11.6 million) goes to Vanuatu.

"Government should stop handing out farming equipment and try to develop the market to achieve the full potential of local kava."

November 8, 2005

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