Critical shortage of Kava in Vanuatu's capital
A shortage of kava in Vanuatu's capital Port Vila has been linked to a recent severe drought that destroyed many young kava plantations as well as the industry's struggle to meet growing demand for the product around the country.
A shortage of kava in Vanuatu's capital Port Vila has been linked to a recent severe drought that destroyed many young kava plantations.
Furthermore, kava production is struggling to cope with increased demand around Vanuatu's islands.
A scientist with the Ministry of Agriculture Dr Vincent Lebot explained the situation to Johnny Blades:
VINCENT LEBOT: Locally in the different islands of Vanuatu, now many kava bars are opening locally. So because of the inter-island shipping cnoatrsints, the producers tend to prefer to sell directly to the local bars and consequently in the capital which is located on the island of Efate where there is no kava production, it's true there is a shortage of kava supply. And the price of a shell is still the same. It's 100 vatu per shell. The problem is that the quality is declining because bartenders tend to dillute more the kava brew compared to what they used to do in the past. So instead of being satisfied with two or three (shells), you might go for four or five.
JOHNNY BLADES: You don't want it dilluted, do you, it's just not the same kind of hit?
VL: Well exactly. This is not what we are looking for because you don't want to drink kava for hours. What you are looking for is a quick, relaxing effect within a few minutes and you want to socialise with your friends in the kava bars and to go back home in time. You don't want to stay in the kava bars for hours.
JB: What can Vanuatu do about this shortage in the capital?
VL: It's true that we had a serious drought event with El Nino. But I mean that farmers need to react promptly and urgently because what happens when the price increases, some countries like maybe Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomons or even Hawaii or New Caledonia will start considering growing kava locally, because for them it will become attractive to produce kava locally. They have not attempted to do so, so far, because it was still cheaper to import it from Vanuatu because the production and the quality were there. But if the quantity and the quality are not there anymore, then we might see some other counties being interested in kava production. And that will have an impact on the quality of the products on the international market of course.
JB: So is there a dialogue with the producers around your country, trying to look at: 'what can we do with this situation now to become more resilient, how do we cope with this current shortage?'
VL: Well, the only way is to convince farmers to plant more but because kava is propagated vegetatively with cuttings. There are some technical constraints (with planting cuttings in dry ground), so 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.
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