“The high increase in the domestic and export market prices of noble kava has stimulated a boom in planting new kava plantations and replanting of old kava plots throughout the country since 2015 up until today”.
Director of Agriculture and Rural Development Antoine Ravo makes the statement in preparation towards the launching of the Kava Replanting Programme at Tagabe this week on May 17.
The launch will encourage using the most appropriate agricultural methods and farming systems ( raise in nurseries / intercrop model) to ensure a 100% growth rate of noble kava is achieved by farmers.
While kava takes three to five years to harvest, the Director says, “I could say that today farmers are more advanced in their knowledge of caring for their kava plantations and understanding their kava cropping calendar to mitigate climate change impacts (high rain fall, drought and pest and disease) and managing their crops well to ensure that their returns from kava are consistent throughout the year.
That is why we can make out that many lead farmers today mainly on the main productive islands of Santo, Pentecost, Malekula, Maewo and Epi are enjoying the high prices of domestic market(price range from 1,000vt to 1,500vt per kilo of fresh kava in Vila) and export market (3,000vt to 4,000vt per kilo fresh dry kava) of noble kava while others are now starting to plant kava from what they have learned from the market and other experienced kava farmers.
“One can tell that with the ongoing challenges faced by the industry such as the high logistical cost of transport and poor access to production sites and market, the income generated from kava has contributed directly to the livelihoods of our farmers and the development in the rural settings”.
The Director says this is what the Department of Agriculture expects to achieve from the National Kava Strategy by 2025, which refers to “Green Gold” as kava forms an integral part of cultural, economic and social life.
At the same time, the Department encourages farmers to also improve their farming practices to intercrop other food crops like kumala, banana, taro, corn, and other vegetables to sustain their food and nutrition security for a healthy society to continue boost their productivity.
Kava as an important commercial crop, brings in approximately Vt400 Million in annual export earnings, a figure that is expected to grow with increasing market access and product development. The crop is grown in all islands of Vanuatu with a large domestic market.
DARD and the Department of Biosecurity have collaboratively worked to review the Kava Act (2002) and in June 2015 the recent change on the Kava Act was passed by parliament and gazetted in January 2017. The Act also plays a significant role to enforce quality control and standards of the kava value chain.
After the launch of the Kava Strategy in 2015 the Department has established a “Kava Replanting Program” and kava association ( coordinated with 21 farmers associations) around the provinces in collaboration with the Kava Industry working group through the PHAMA program; the SPC KfW Project and the UNDP — Vanuatu Coastal Adaptation project during the year 2016 to 2018.
Additionally, the Department mainly supports the Kava Replanting Programme that focuses on the distribution of poly bags, kava cuttings and trainings on kava nursery management, identification on the 10 noble kava varieties and kava plantation management.
In 2017, a total of 344, 181 kava cuttings were distributed to provinces to establish kava nurseries for multiplication of planting materials of the 10 noble varieties. SANMA province reported a total of 299, 016 cuttings, and SHEFA province recorded to have distributed 38,365 cuttings.
The Director wishes to thank the following partners for their continous support to the kava production in one way or the other – FAO, SPC KfW Project, PHAMA Program, UNDP Vanuatu Coastal Adaptation Project (VCAP) and the Government for additional funding towards the programme.