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By Hilaire Bule

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (The Independent, May 30) – Two chiefs of Batnapni and Melsisi in Central Pentecost said they totally disagree with the re-prescription and the monopoly imposed on kava by the government through Vanuatu Commodities Marketing Board.

[PIR editor’s note: Pentecost is an island in the central part of Vanuatu, north of Efate Island where the national capital of Port Vila is situated.]

Chiefs Reuben Viredal and chief Chanel Molbung said that people of Pentecost had not been consulted by Minister for Trade and Commerce Jame Bule and Vanuatu Commodities Marketing Board general manager Georgy Calo before the introduction of the kava on the list of prescribed commodity.

Chief Viredal and chief Molbung said that they are also convinced that other islands, which grow kava plants, are not aware of what is happening with their traditional beverage.

They say that people of Pentecost – who represent the main suppliers of the product at local and international markets – should have a say in the future of kava.

"We are surprised that Mr. Bule and Mr. Calo want to take control of the market for kava. For us, the government is stealing the result of the sweat of the people in the village when they take over control of kava. We chiefs own the kava and not Mr. Bule and Mr. Calo; and so far we don't see any financial assistance from the government to the farmers," said the two chiefs.

They believe that the current government policy on kava will not last long because it does not follow and respect custom and traditional rules.

For them, everything starts from the bottom and not from the top.

Chief Viredal and chief Molbung said that the current government policy on kava will not discourage the middle man as claimed by Mr. Bule because Vanuatu Commodities Marketing Board is now taking over their role.

They said their people want to see the construction of a kava factory in Batnapni and control of the product given back to the farmers.

Concerning the introduction of kava on the list of Codex Alimentarius rules, the two chiefs said it is wise to consult the people in the islands before penalizing them like the imposed government policy and the monopoly of the kava.

Batnapni is the main port on Pentecost and supplies approximately 200 bags of fresh and green kava, each week for more than 300 kava consumers and bars in Port Vila.

June 1, 2006

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