Dr. Lebot

Dr-Vincent Lebot attending kava workshop at Tagabe

German scientist Dr. Mathias Schmidt, the man who, with former Vanuatu Ambassador to the European Union, Roy Mickey Joy and Italian international trade lawyer, Paolo Bergano, had worked tirelessly to convince a German Administrative Court to lift the kava ban from the Pacific on the EU market last year, says he will no longer advocate buying kava from Vanuatu.

He says his move is to protect European kava importers.

He is importing his kava from Samoa, Tonga and Fiji saying they have no two-day kava there.

“I won’t risk the very fragile situation in Germany with the alleged discovery of two-day junk, including peelings instead of noble kava roots in a delivery”, he says.

Recalling the critical period which resulted with the kava ban in 2002, Dr. Schmidt says the problem with kava exports to Europe came up because Vanuatu sold poor quality kava to a German manufacturer.

The scientist says he was convinced that at the time it was not intentional. “Vanuatu rightfully complained and even wanted to start a WTO procedure. A precondition for that was that Vanuatu would have to be blameless when it comes to quality”, he says.

“There were not, and things got worse. Until now Vanuatu could not least say that the problem with kava was the result of some semi-criminal activities, but now they cannot do that any longer.

“If anything happens again it will be their responsibility and theirs alone. Too bad that it will not only hurt the Vanuatu economy again, but also the economy of Fiji, Samoa and Tongoa.

“And by the way, we do not even have to wait for another report of liver failure. Just the proof of presence of bad quality kava will be sufficient to trigger reactions from the EU regulators – and the media”.

As for Dr. Vincent Lebot who is an authority on kava, he is on the Board of the Vanuatu Agriculture Research Training Centre (VARTC).

The scientist’s work is fully funded by the French Government to conduct research in the country to assist growers.

He is aware of concerns that his work is not conclusive. He says people are entitled to their own views and welcomes them to click on his website: http://publications.cirad.fr/auteur.php?mat=1389 to have access to his papers.

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