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By Ricky Binihi

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, July 27) – The Vanuatu Commodities Marketing Board has vowed to clamp down on people who are exporting kava but are not Vanuatu citizens, the Secretary of the Board, Mr. Batick Karl told Daily Post. "Many people do not realize that kava is under the reserve list which means that only Vanuatu citizens can deal in it," Mr. Karl said.

The Board says they have information, which they intend to investigate, about some ni-Vanuatu kava agents who get money from outsiders or people who should not be dealing with kava and are exporting kava on their behalf.

There are people who have applied for export licenses and after the Board has granted them their licenses they instead transfer the name of the license to someone who is not eligible to deal with kava but has money. Daily Post has been told by reliable sources that some of these people come to Luganville and travel around with their local agents to rural areas to buy kava and when they get two or three containers filled they get away. "These people do not have kava export licenses yet they use the poor ni-Vanuatu who has an approved license to ship their kava abroad. We even hear that these locals are even paid only Vt100 to Vt200 [US$.92 to $1.82] for allowing their licenses to be used by these foreigners," Mr. Karl said.

The Board says it will no longer permit people who have export licenses allow their licenses to be used by people who under Vanuatu law are prohibited to deal in the kava industry. Only this year a group of kava buyers in New Caledonia came to Santo and had their container of kava filled then before the Board realized the kava was already airlifted to Noumea.

Daily Post asked Mr. Karl what if a ni-Vanuatu who is living in New Caledonia applied for a kava export license could have the Board grant them the license. The Board’s Secretary said they haven’t had anyone who is a Vanuatu citizen and living in New Caledonia apply for an export license but he again reiterated the point that kava is in the reserved list and only Vanuatu citizens can deal in it.

Mr. Karl said if the Board finds out that ni-Vanuatu people who have export licenses are allowing their licenses to be used by "outsiders" these people will have their licenses revoked and they could also be prosecuted. Meanwhile the Board secretary is appealing to any Vanuatu citizen who is interested in exporting kava to lodge their application with the Board. "But the Board can not accept people applying on behalf of other foreigners interested in kava but are not eligible to deal with kava according to our laws," Mr. Karl aid.

[PIR editor’s note: There is current speculation that problems with the industry are the result of a monopoly by the Vanuatu Commodities Marketing Board. Some say that the monitoring and quality control areas are being affected by lack of consistent follow-up.]

July 28, 2006

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