24 Sep 2003

Pacific kava industry struggles to counter negative publicity

5:41 pm on 24 September 2003

A Vanuatu scientist and kava expert says damage done to the kava industry by international bans imposed last year will be hard to repair despite a recent European study finding the product safe.

Vince Lebot says the reputation of kava was widely tarnished when many Western countries followed Germany's example and banned kava products following a report which said kava was toxic to the liver.

However, a study earlier this year by the Brussels-based Centre for the Development of Enterprise said that the bans were based on insufficient data.

A European-Pacific kava stakeholders meeting in Brussels last month resolved to convince European health authorities that the ban was scientifically unsound, but Mr Lebot says he doubts this will improve the market in the short-term.

"Because at the end the one who decides is the consumer and this ban had so much publicity that now the damage is serious and the consumers are scared. So I don't know how they are going to convince the consumers that they should buy again these kava extracts."

Vanuatu kava expert, Vince Lebot