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High kava price

Manasa Kalouniviti
Saturday, January 13, 2018

THE lifting of the European Union (EU) kava export ban has left an entrepreneur speculating on the implications because of the high price of local kava.

"I don't know what to expect because we don't even know whether the EU will be able to accommodate this price," Lami Kava director Donny Jason Yee said. This newspaper yesterday visited three kava exporters to gauge their reaction to the recent lifting of the EU kava export ban.

They all had similar sentiments that the farmers' price of Fiji kava was exceptionally high and this would affect the farmers' ability to take advantage or benefit from this development.

Mr Yee said back in the late 1990s the price of kava was really low compared with what it was now.

"Fijian kava exporters may benefit from the opening of the EU market but as it is, we are not even satisfying our local demand which is why we are importing from other Pacific Island countries which was way cheaper than buying locally," he said.

Mr Yee said he lost most of his export customers over the past two years because of price concerns.

"For instance, you can't buy any kava from local farmers for anything less than $100 to $120 a kilogram, and you pay even more depending on location."

He said in Vanuatu last year, they were buying from farmers at less than $F70 a kilogram which was much lower than Fiji.

"This would impact the export price of Vanuatu kava," he said

Mr Yee still maintained that it would be hard for Fijian exporters to tap into any market, let alone the now reopened EU market because of the high price of kava.

Praveen Kumar of Praveen's Kava said they exported only to New Zealand and on the reopening of the EU kava export market, he said: "It doesn't affect us at the moment because right now the supply is low and the farmers' price is high and we can't meet the export demand at the moment, let alone the local demand," Mr Kumar said.

He said he had lost some of his New Zealand customers because of the inconsistent supply.

"The main obstacle is the high price, which does not enable exporters to keep up the level of supply and quality," he said.

"When the supply level is high and price drops then I might consider looking at the EU market."

Shiwangini Chand, a director of Twins Kava Dealers, which currently exports to most Pacific countries including Hawaii and New Zealand, said her husband was aware of the reopening of the EU kava market, but said they were concentrating on their current clients.

"And we are a making very little profits from exports because of the high price from farmers," she said.

Mrs Chand said they had to work hard to establish their export customers at the current pricing structure.

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