Drought Destroying Vanuatu Kava Plantations

Industry struggles to keep up with increased demand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, June 20, 2016) – A shortage of kava in Vanuatu's capital Port Vila has been linked to the recent severe drought which destroyed many kava plantations.

Furthermore, kava production is struggling to cope with increased demand around Vanuatu's islands.

More farmers in outer islands are selling directly to local bars rather than shipping to Port Vila on Efate where there is no kava production.

A scientist with the Ministry of Agriculture says farmers need to respond urgently before Vanuatu loses ground in its various export markets.

Dr Vincent Lebot has urged farmers to plant more, while advising that ongoing dry conditions entail technical constraints with planting kava cuttings.

"What we are recommending to them is to establish nurseries in their villages that they can water properly, and to raise their young plants in plastic bags at the village level and then to transfer the young plants to the gardens," he said.

Meanwhile, the country's leading Vanuatu expert warned that Vanuatu could lose some ground as a leading producer and exporter of kava if farmers aren't able to overcome the current challenges.

According to Dr Lebot, a prompt response is required because, as the wholesale price of kava rises, neighbour Pacific countries may consider growing kava locally.

"Because for them it will become attractive to produce kava locally," he explained.

So far regional countries had not attempted to do so, he said, because it was still cheaper to import it from Vanuatu where the production and quality was optimal.

"But if the quantity and the quality are not there anymore, then we might see some other counties being interested in kava production."

Dr Lebot said this would have an impact on the quality of the kava product on the international market.

Radio New Zealand International
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