Dear Editor,

DG of Agriculture, Moses Amos made statements in the above article that read mucah more like election campaigning than considered policies of the Government.

He has clearly exceeded his authority in holding up the granting of export licences to Vanuatu companies involved in kava. Perhaps he can explain what article of the law gives him the power and right to do so without good reason and as a blanket action covering all kava exporters? Talk about killing the goose that lays the golden eggs! Is the DG feeding almost the whole population of Vanuatu? No, but the kava industry very much is doing so!

DG Amos is endangering the development and sustainability of one of Vanuatu’s major export-earning industries by interfering in the market in an arbitrary and capricious manner. As the DG of Trade, Roy Mickey Joy, made clear in the article, his Ministry was never consulted in regard to an issue that negatively affects both national and international trade very directly.

DG Amos is sowing confusion and discord among kava farmers and kava buyers and exporters. His first confusion is that he seems unaware that kava is bought from farmers in two very different forms: fresh kava and dried kava. The prices paid to farmers are very different for these two very different products. So which one is he talking about? He doesn’t say.

He demands that the supposed current ‘farm gate’ price be tripled (500 to 1500 vatu) or even more ridiculously be increased by six times to 3000vatu. What farmer wouldn’t want three or six times the current price? But if it is fresh kava he is talking about then I wonder if the kava bar patrons of Vanuatu would be prepared to pay 600 vatu for a shell of kava that now costs 100 vatu? The switch to drinking cheaper alcohol, cause of so many problems in our Pacific neighbours, would be the immediate result. Most kava bars around the place would have to close. Does that sound like a good result? We’ve seen the kava industry collapse before – did that benefit the farmers?

Perhaps a simple lesson in economics is what is needed to bring DG Amos back to his right mind? After all, we live in a market economy not a communist state where government officials can arbitrarily make whatever decision they want. Simply put, the market determines the price, not DG Amos. When as now there is effectively an oversupply of kava then prices fall. If there isn’t enough kava around, as was the case until quite recently, then the price rises.

The kava is not grown in Port Vila, it is grown in the islands. Its transport to the coast has to be paid for, and then it is brought over in ships. If DG Amos wants to in fact help the kava industry as a whole then he should be complaining about the absurdly high freight charges of the shipping companies when kava is involved, and those of transport companies in Port Vila bringing kava from the wharf. Running a kava bar has obvious costs and processing for export too has many costs: paying workers, rent, electricity and for exporters in addition the Biosecurity inspection and clearance fees and the cost of export permits from DG Amos’ own Ministry.

Usually at this point in a letter such as this, the writer calls for the sacking of the public servant who has been so breathtakingly high-handed and exceeded his powers.

Kava Observer

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