EU Kava Product Ban Costing Pacific $5.1 Million Annually

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Traditional drink also functions as cash crop for Vanuatu

By Thompson Marango

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Nov. 29, 2012) – Kava producing Pacific countries are losing Vt472 million (over 4 million Euros, or US$5.1 million) of export revenue each year since 2002 when the European Union banned the kava trade.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Industry, and Tourism Ham Lini said this has totaled to over Vt5 billion [US$54.1 million] to date.

This was revealed by the Deputy Prime Minister when he officially opened Vanuatu’s first ever National Kava Forum Monday in Port Vila.

Lini made the revelation shortly after he made an official call to Canberra about the importance of relaxing restrictions on kava imports.

"Kava, as our traditional drink is also a cash crop that is the main revenue earner for many farmers to meet basic needs like school fees and medical services.

"In 2002, European Union banned the export of kava from Vanuatu and other kava producing countries of the Pacific.

"The issue resulted in the Pacific losing total export revenue exceeding 4 million Euros which equals Vt472 million plus each year.

"Australia has also banned kava from Vanuatu and other Pacific kava producing countries since 2007, which costs us export revenue of over Vt37.5 million [US$405,625] in 2012 alone," said Deputy Prime Minister. "This paints a negative publicity about our golden product in the international export market."

Vanuatu’s first ever National Kava Forum initiated a comprehensive examination centered on an industry that has given jobs to 25,000-plus farmers and employs thousands more people [in] the Kava Industry. Discussions will be based around kava production, quality control, and trading of Vanuatu kava and export.

According to Lini, the Government’s objective is for the Forum to put forward a clear roadmap and development plan to take the kava industry forward.

"I requested this Forum to review existing policies and legislative frameworks and generate a better road map to improve Vanuatu’s kava industry," said the Deputy Prime Minster.

One of the main interesting topics of the Forum is Europe’s ban on kava that has also affected the global market of kava.

The two-day forum gathers a wide group of stakeholders including farmers, exporters, processors, government officials, civil societies and development partners to review the industry.

With ‘Develop and Improve Kava Quality and Trade’ as its theme, the Forum takes an in-depth approach into the industry with technicians bringing about expertise of Agriculture and Kava Production and its marketing and trade considering the existing Kava Act.

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