Fiji Suffering From Kava Shortage

Fewer farmers willing to cultivate traditional crop

By Matilda Simmons

 

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, June 14, 2016) – The shortage of kava supply in the country was not caused by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston. Instead, it is because the country does not have enough kava.

This was revealed by the chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Natural Resources Joeli Cawaki after a public consultation with Suva market vendors on the Kava Bill yesterday morning.

Mr Cawaki said farmers were not planting enough of the crop.

"We heard from the farmers and the market vendors that the increase in price started well before the cyclone in February. When the cyclone struck, it just put a stoppage to the supply so the demand is very high," he said.

He said smallholders were finding it extremely difficult to compete at a level field among the bigholders of kava sellers.

"What we want in the Bill is an equal share for everybody — the growers, the processors, the importers and exporters. At the moment, it's not going that way, the cream is going to the middleman. They are buying a lot to suffocate the others.

"We also heard that there's less young and able-bodied people out there farming the crop and vendors were now turning to Vanuatu to import kava."

Mr Cawaki said they received submissions from Rakiraki, Lautoka, Labasa, Nabouwalu and Savusavu to get an all across the board view.

"What we would like to see now is for people in the rural areas to plant more of the crop.

"We want to entice more young people into the industry because the farmers are getting old, they're not planting like before and the younger generation seem unwilling to work in the farms."

He said one of the other issues raised was the brand of kava out there in the region, which was falsely branded as Fiji made.

"Under the Kava Bill, there will be a regulation on the Fiji brand which we need to reserve only for Fiji kava.

"At the moment some of the exported kava in the region is being falsely branded as Fiji Kava and we want to put a stop to this."

Yaqona is presently retailing at around $60 to $90 [US$29 - 43] a kilogram in most marketplaces nationwide.

In 2014, Fiji earned around $7 million-$8m [US$3.4 - 3.9 million] annually from kava exports. The country is also the second-biggest importer of the crop from Vanuatu behind New Caledonia.

Fiji Times Online.
Copyright © 2016 Fiji Times Online. All Rights Reserved

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