Fiji kava taskforce holds talks in Vanuatu

Fiji Kava Taskforce delegations in Vanuatu to discuss steps for progressing the regional standard for kava. Photo: SUPPLIED.

A delegation from Fiji was in Vanuatu this past week to discuss the next steps for progressing the regional standard for kava.

The delegation was greeted officially by the Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity and his executive team before they departed Port Vila for the industry association meetings in Santo. At this initial meeting, the team also met Vanuatu’s Biosecurity Director, Tim Tumukon, who is also the Regional Coordinator for the North America and the South West Pacific Codex region that includes Australia and New Zealand to discuss the next steps for progressing the regional standard for kava.

In Santo, the delegation met with members of the Vanuatu Kava Industry Association (VKIA) and some kava farmers, processors and exporters.

The visit to Vanuatu was supported by the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Program. The Program has played a key role in helping to protect Fiji and Vanuatu’s kava exports and thousands of livelihoods of households involved in kava production.

Head of the Fiji Kava Taskforce delegation, Mr. Pauliasi Tuilau said kava is not only a commercial crop to both Fiji and Vanuatu but one that is of significant value in our cultural ceremonies in the Pacific Islands.

He also added that the ongoing collaboration with Vanuatu will ensure there is greater understanding of the way kava is managed and traded as a key commodity in the region and world market.

Lessons learned from the past have provided the catalyst for stakeholders in Fiji and Vanuatu to make sure the efforts to maintain market access for kava through the development of quality standards is not disrupted by fly-by-night operators.

VKIA Chairman, Mr. Michael Louze indicated that kava had surpassed cocoa, cattle and copra in generating income for the farmers in Vanuatu and the visit by the Fiji stakeholders was timely because it provided the opportunity to share information and ideas that would strengthen the cooperation between the two countries on the implementation of their quality standards including the use of the colorimetric test, an assurance technique to confirm the quality of the kava.

The visiting delegation comprised of Pauliasi Tuilau, the Principal Economics Planning Officer at the Ministry of Agriculture; Alipate Momoka, the head of Fiji’s Ministry of Health’s Food Unit; Donny Yee, Managing Director for Lami Kava Ltd; Kelvin Vinod, Managing Director of Kell Investments Ltd; Mohammed Aiyaz, the Suva Station Coordinator for the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji; Saimone Delabaka, the Acting Nematologist at the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji; and Losalini Leweniqila, PHAMA’s National Coordinator in Fiji.

MOA [Information & Communication section]