Last chance for Pacific kava export market
Kava-producing countries are on notice over poor kava varieties as European market set to improve.
Kava-producing countries have been put on notice that nothing less than top quality exports are crucial in ensuring the industry thrives.
A German court decision last February lifted a decade-long European ban, in place over fears of toxic kava varieties.
Now the attention is turning to Pacific countries that are still at risk of letting those varieties through their ports.
Alex Perrottet reports.
Non-noble kava varieties include "high-yielding" and "two-day" kava. Those types are responsible for the bad name an important industry has in Europe.
The chair of the International Kava Executive Council, Tagaloa Eddie Wilson, says the damage of the European kava ban was massive.
It has already been estimated the loss for the PAcific because of this has been 2-3 billion dollars. It is going to take a while to rebuild the market and get the consumer confidence, so there's a lot of work to be done.
Tagaloa says there will always be importers looking for cheaper varieties.
There are certain traders in the industry that are still finding their way to get hold of this and export them. That is a no-no, industry in the PAcific has met several times and they have agreed that this kava which is non-noble must never be used in the trade.
A European kava expert and scientist Mathias Schmidt, is visiting Pacific countries and had been working on lifting the German ban. He says a clear definition on noble kava is essential.
If there is another problem with kava that would be the end of the story, there will be no revival. So if we want to avoid this, we have to stick to quality and that means defining what is noble kava.
Dr Schmidt says kava from Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Solomon Islands will be analysed in Germany to define a gold standard for noble kava.
A scientist working in Vanuatu, Vincent Lebot, says there are chemical techniques that can ensure poor varieties are weeded out, but they need to be put into practice.
Vanuatu's 2002 Kava Act banned the non-noble varieties, but Mr Lebot says enforcing the act is a problem.
Officially non-noble varieties are banned, but some traders are trying to satisfy the European demand withi high-yielding varieties or even by-products, such as peelings, for example which are banned in the Kava Act but we know they are currently being exported.
The private secretary of the Vanuatu Minister of Agriculture, Abel Tapisuwe, says amendments have already been made to the Kava Act, which will lead to concrete actions.
People on the ground to inspect on the field level, the processing plants, to make sure that noble kavas are exported and it will go into Parliament sitting next month, and when that is done we will have a big campaign against two-day kava.
Vincent Lebot says the USA market is responding favourably but it will take time for the European market to respond. All stakeholders agree that this really is the last chance for the Pacific's kava export industry.
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