Photo: Bill

The Director General (DG) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity, (MALFFB) Moses Amos, has issued a directive to the Director of Biosecurity Vanuatu, Mrs. Meriam Toalak, requesting for a meeting with all Kava operators and exporters to discuss kava pricing.

The purpose of the meeting is to have a round table discussion on the “low purchasing prices being offered to farmers by kava exporters which does not reflect the external kava market prices”.

DG Amos made it clear that until the meeting is held to discuss the urgent issue, no licenses shall not be renewed.

Yesterday morning, a Kava Exporter told Daily Post their dried-kava consignment could not be exported to New Caledonia last week. The exporter said over five tons of kava including that of other exporters were held back from being airfreighted to Noumea. One of the exporters alleged the government has introduced restrictions on the export of kava to the New Caledonia.

In clarifying the issue, DG Moses explained it was not restricting or banning exports of kava to New Caledonia, but rather not renewing export licenses to all kava exporters to New Caledonia and other overseas markets.

He said 2019 Kava Export Licenses have expired and have not been renewed yet for 2020, because the ministry wants to get all Kava Exporters to a round table to discuss kava pricing before renewing their export licenses.

Mr. Moses, stated the government wants to see a fair price on kava paid to local kava farmers and added the current price paid to local kava famers is not enough for their kava product.

“The present kava price of around Vt500 –Vt600 per kilo is not enough. The price to local farmers should be around Vt1,500 or even Vt2,000 to Vt3,000 per kilo. The middle buyers make more money as well as the exporters of Vanuatu kava to the overseas market,” the MALFFB DG stressed.

He said many kava farmers in Vanuatu rely on kava earning to pay for school fees, particularly at the beginning of the year when their children return to school and to offer low price of kava at this time, especially for Vanuatu kava that fetch huge revenue into the country and for middle buyers and exporters is not fair.

Yesterday morning the Director of the Department of Industry, Jimmy Rantes, told the Daily Post that he has just returned from leave and was not aware of any alleged restrictions on kava export to New Caledonia.

The DG of the Ministry of Trade, Mickey Roy Joy, said he also was not aware of any alleged restrictions of kava export to New Caledonia or elsewhere in the region or beyond when contacted by phone yesterday morning.

“I am not aware at this point of time of any restrictions on Kava export.

“And if there is an intention by the government to do so, then there should be wider consultations with everyone, because of the effect it could have on the economy,” DG Joy expressed.

“Vanuatu benefited from over Vt700 million from kava export to New Caledonia alone in 2019, let alone other international markets.”

DG Amos clarified there is no restriction on kava export to New Caledonia or elsewhere but rather the renewal of kava export licenses is pending until the meeting.

One of the Kava Exporters also revealed that from 2015 to 2019 (five years) kava farmers have planted more kava. This huge stock is one of the reasons which contributes to the drop of price of kava paid to the local farmers.

He added that today, Vanuatu is not the only exporter of Kava to New Caledonia: “The government must also be aware that Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea also export Kava into New Caledonia market.

“Though we know that the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea kava are not of the same and high quality as the Vanuatu kava, yet we do not control their low prices offered to the New Caledonia market.

“And we also do not control New Caledonia from importing from Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, though we know the taste and quality is not of the same high quality as the Vanuatu kava.

But these are the facts Vanuatu farmers, the government and everyone must know where Vanuatu is today in the regional kava market industry”.

But DG Amos reiterated that fair kava price must be paid to Vanuatu Kava Farmers: “The middle buyers and exporters must pay a reasonable price to kava farmers, even if other countries in the region are also competing in the kava industry and markets overseas. The ministry and the government want fair prices for local kava farmers,” he stressed.

The urgent meeting with kava exporters is expected to be held in Port Vila next week.

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