Fiji Kava Allegedly Sold In Samoa With False Labels

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Imported product labeled as local or from Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, Oct. 7, 2014) – The Ministry of Health has confiscated 172 packets of imported Fiji kava’s after reports of misleading labeling reached their office.

This was confirmed by MOH Principal officer Seve Sinei Fili to the media today.

He said there are four brands of imported kava with one sold under a local label Savelio Ava Samoa Fagaloa.

According to Seve, all four brands of kava have the same taste, which means there is only one brand of kava but with different labels.

The kava brands are Savelio Ava Fagaloa, Ava Tonga, Ava Vanuatu and Ava-Ava- Ava- Mefi.

All these brands are believed to be imported from overseas but after testing and tasting them, Seve said it was just one brand of kava.

"This is misleading and illegal act," said Seve.

Seve said after confiscating the kava last Friday, his team got copies of shipping documents and airway bills so they could determine the origin of the product in question.

Seve is awaiting approval from the Ministry’s Chief Executive Officer so he could put a public notice to warn the public about the misleading ava.

"We are also going to recall back all the ava from the shops selling them," said Seve.

The Fijian company BRIJ Sharma Kava is a family owned business based in Fiji who export kava to Samoa through Ms. Joydi Sharma who has lived in Samoa for ten years with her husband Rakesh.

The couple operates an electrical company called Power Light at Saleufi.

According to the couple, they are not aware of any other brand of kava except for the one her family sends from Fiji under the local label of Savelio Ava Samoa Fagaloa.

Ms. Sharma confirmed that her family owns the business but she does not deal with the kava directly although their company at Saleufi is used as a base to drop off and pick up the kava.

The local dealer is Aufa’i Sale Mata’utia.

"Aufa’i is the kava dealer and the kava license is under his name," said Ms. Sharma.

Aufa’i is also sponsoring Rakesh and Joidy’s stay in Samoa.

Aufa’i spoke to the media today and confirmed being the sponsor and a shareholder of the Power Light company.

He denied any knowledge of the misleading label.

But according to Ms. Sharma, when the kava was first introduced here two years ago, they let Aufa’i deal with it.

"We have known Aufa’i for a long time and he is a good man," said Rakesh.

Ms. Sharma said the Savelio name was suggested by one of their employees Va’a Lautua from Fagaloa.

"Savelio is Va’a’s uncle who cultivates ava at Fagaloa," said Ms. Sharma.

She and her husband Rakesh were surprised when asked about the other kava brands.

"We only sell Savelio brand and we know nothing about the others," said Rakesh.

However, from the Ministry’s findings, someone is pushing illegal trading by using one brand of ava with different labels and is misleading the buying public.

Aufa’i was aware of the four different labels

When asked by the media today if he knew that the Fijian kava was sold under a local label, Aufa’i said Yes. But denied knowledge of the other three labels.

"I did not know there was a need for local products to be labeled, I thought it was just for overseas products. I went to see the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour (MCIL) last week to register the Savelio label."

Ms. Sharma confirmed the ava has been sold in Samoa for two years and was not aware of the other three labels.

The matter is now being investigated by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

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