As has been announced, the Vanuatu Government gazetted the amendments to the Kava Act in late January, sending a “strong message” about improving the quality of export kava.
The changes to the 2002 Act followed the review in 2014 and parliamentary amendments of 2015.
Controls for export quality were regarded as particularly important in an article from the New York Times and this paper earlier in the week.
Tests for kava export production, on the one hand, and farmer education, on the other, are already underway.
Colorimetric tests which can be validated by laboratory tests means that only noble varieties can be exported from Vanuatu.
Vanuatu’s ambassador in Brussels and the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Program funded by the Australian and New Zealand Governments and FAO have all been working hard to achieve quality exports.
PHAMA has played a particularly big role with farmers, growers and exporters. The gazetting puts Vanuatu at the forefront in the region in regulating kava exports.
In the light of recent media reports of poor quality kava exports the Vanuatu Government says it felt action was necessary to protect and maintain markets and safeguard the livelihoods of many thousands of families generating income from kava. And this is being done as the industry is affected by climate change and the ongoing recovery from TC Pam.
Kava exports from Vanuatu generated US$7.34 million in 2014, US$1.64 million in 2015 and US $ 8.03 million in the first three quarters last year and the final figure will be much higher. The government is therefore calling on everyone involved in the kava value chain for cooperation.
There is still a lot to be done. The Kava Industry Working Group of the Ministry funded last week’s consultations on Ambrym, Pentecost and Santo. These explained the new requirements for farmers and exporters and were led by experts. It was announced there would be a nursery programme for the noble varieties. It will be partnered by key kava exporters. Resilient noble seedlings for planting will be provided.
Government is doing its best and all others involved in kava production must help protect the product. Kava was said to be the “biggest opportunity” Fiji has in development in the New York Times and Daily Post on Tuesday. We can add “best” to “biggest” in Vanuatu.