Vanuatu leading the way on kava: Fiji Kava Task Force Committee Chair

The Fiji Kava Task Force Committee members pose with (in ties l-r) Director General Benjamin Shing, FKTFC Chairman Pauliasi Tudau, and Vanuatu Biosecurity Director Timothy Tumukon.

By Jonas Cullwick

A high level team from Fiji consisting of the Fiji Kava Task Force Committee representing two Government Ministries, traders, industry players and Fiji biosecurity authorities is currently in Vanuatu looking at the operations of the Vanuatu kava industry.

Chair of the Fiji Kava Task Force, Pauliasi Tudau, said at the welcome ceremony for the team in Port Vila early this week that Fiji Task Force Committee works very closely in collaboration with PHAMA program and they were thankful for the collaborations of PHAMA in exchanging visits.

“This is a reciprocal visit. But our focus is technical,” he added.

“We have received a delegation from Vanuatu a couple of months back in the same industry visits visiting our processes, visiting our farms and I think that leads to a good platform for the exchange of information between us.”

Mr. Tudau congratulated Vanuatu and specifically the Vanuatu Director of Biosecurity, Timothy Tumukon, for the good work for the kava codex in the region.

“We just like to congratulate each other because we see this work as quite important for both of our people in terms of treaty. And the work that Vanuatu did in the coordination of regional standards speaks volume in the region.

“We want to congratulate you Tim, Director of Biosecurity for the hard work done in the last two years. We sit together in the Codex Interest Commission and I’m glad for our Permanent Secretary to hear the announcement of the news of the acceptance for the regional cover.

“We’ve seen also an invite from the Coordinator a couple of weeks back of the establishment of the Electronic Working Group. That is your working group that will be working among Pacific countries members in perfecting our regional standard.

“We hope that the document will be a guiding document that will guide us and open new frontiers, new markets that we hope for, and even convince the high markets like the EU who have been not so friendly with us. But we hope that with the help of Codex this will open doors for us in the future,” the Chair of the Fiji Kava Task Force Committee said.

Mr. Tudau pointed to Vanuatu’s leadership in the kava industry in the region saying: “We know Vanuatu is leading the way on kava in the region.

“You have advanced us on many fronts and we would like to learn from you.

“You’re ahead of us in development of legislations.

“We follow suit. We hope that our meetings in the next few days will give us some insights on how we can improve especially in trade amongst ourselves.

“We have also been members of trade importers and we think that technical information, good information exchanged from this visit will really help us in collaborating.

“We see the importance of trading amongst ourselves.

“Our Fiji figures confirm that the volume of our Pacific islands trade is more than the value of our trade with Australia and New Zealand is quite significant.

“We see that opening of our doors between ourselves in terms of trade will enable us to focus economically in future.”

Welcoming the team, the Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity, Benjamin Shing, said that one of the people he thought missing from kava discussions is the farmer.

“We got the traders, we got the regulators, we’ve also got regulators and traders but we haven’t got the producers. These are the most important people.”

He assured the Fiji Kava Task Force visitors that the Vanuatu team that will be assisting them is also made of very technical people.

“They stand up in their own rights and you will have a lot of time to discuss with them during your visit. I have all the trust and confidence in our people, My Director of Biosecurity and Agriculture.

“It is my hope that while you are here you will be able to perfect the protocols of trade now that you have these two officials over here including the terms of trade and also we’d like to get some insights from you, especially for the Ministry of Health where we have just completed our “gudfala kaikai” policy that basically looks at the health and safety element where the focus has been on quality assurance on health and safety.

“We hope we can get some input from you on the Ministry of Health in regards to the health aspects of kava as a beverage.

“I’m very optimistic that you have a very big team and on our side when you go to Santo, you’ll meet different elements of the production line.

“Hopefully you’ll be able to meet the farmers themselves, some of them, their plants and look at their different sorts of propagation technics and styles.

“Also from there we have the second tier people who mobilize kava from the farmers to the third tier people who then prepare roots for export, which is where most of you people connect and it would be good to see from the start when we talk about quality hopefully you’ll look at in your manuals as well.

“Quality starts from the production stage.

“You will see the whole picture of the value chain, and we will provide the farmers on our side to complete the team.”

Director Timothy Tumukon revealed to Vanuatu Nightly News’ Kizzy Kalsakau of 96 BuzzFM that the United States of America is now not requesting Vanuatu to do fumigation on kava that goes to the US.

“What the New Caledonia government is also doing is probably in the right direction that the US has set and we would like to discuss this also with the officials from Fiji now in the country,” he added.

Jonas Cullwick, a former General Manager of VBTC is now a Senior Journalist with the Daily Post. Contact: jonas@dailypost.vu. Cell # 678 5460922

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