PM: Vanuatu To Discuss Visa Arrangements, Kava With Australia Under PACER Plus

Production level concerns, PM: 'while we negotiate this with Australia, we already cannot supply the existing markets that we have in countries of the Pacific such as New Caledonia and in Europe'

By Jonas Cullwick

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, September 19, 2017) – There are a number of issues still to be discussed further with Australia under the PACER Plus trade agreement Vanuatu signed nearly two weeks ago, such as normal visa arrangements, which will be subject to bilateral discussions with Australia.

Prime Minister, Charlot Salwai who signed the agreement, says kava is another one.

“Kava is a main concern to many of us in Vanuatu who want us to enter the market in Australia with our kava,” the Prime Minister says.

“At the same time, we know that Australia has a very strong health concern over kava that makes it difficult for our kava to enter the Australian market. They consider kava as a drug, which they do not want it to enter areas such as the Northern Territory mainly because they want to protect the Aboriginese communities who already have major issues with alcohol and kava would compound the situation for them,” he adds.

“On the other side as part of the trade negotiation we could say that if our kava cannot enter Australia, in return we could negotiation a development budget support from them to help us development our kava sector, which still faces challenges.

“One is infrastructure, which we need to develop to increase production of kava. Roads to land that are fertile should be developed or improved so we can produce more kava. We could also negotiate assistance to mechanize this primary industry, which today with just manual labor we cannot expect to be able to supply every market we have.

“While we negotiate this with Australia, we already cannot supply the existing markets that we have in countries of the Pacific such as New Caledonia and in Europe, which we know is open again already.

“We have more to do internally on how we can assist growers of kava to plant more and plant enough for their own use also. Over production will be good because we can supply these to other places. It is our goal today because the price of kava has really gone up.”

Prime Minister Salwai points to another increasing concern about not producing enough “because now we are seeing more and more foreigners entering the business of planting kava and this is a concern because they could take over this business from the ni-Vanuatu.

“Foreigners are entering the kava business including processing and I think this should be only in the hands of ni-Vanuatu.

“It is good to review legislation to ensure this business is a reserved business for only ni-Vanuatu. There are also naturalised citizens, but i believe the sector should be protected for indigenous ni-Vanuatu.”

There is also the concern that as the price of kava is now rising, more and more ni-Vanuatu will be moving to consuming more alcohol and this will drastically affect the kava bars.

In Vanuatu’s first negotiation with Australia, request was made to Australia to give the country Vt50 million [US$472,000]  to support: 1) a laboratory that the country needs to help solve kava quality issues and 2) to set up the country’s own processing facilities locally “because we are not engaging in value adding, as a result we are not receiving the full value of kava.”

The Prime Minister wants Vanuatu move away from continuing to send kava chips outside, which he says will not help the country, but to produce kava power that people could just mix with water and drink or kava pills that people could just take.

“This is a sector we will continue to develop through the Ministry of Trade and Ministry of Agriculture for production and processing is something we want to pursue because with PACER Plus, this is an area we can negotiate for.”

Vanuatu Daily Post
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