Former Vanuatu Ambassador to EU calls for stakeholders to unite to defend and develop the kava industry

Nursery expert Sant Kumar, right, visits kava grower Vani Naucukidi to inspect her nursery in Lovoni Village, Ovalau. Vani has helped kava farmers restore their cyclone-affected farms by selling kava seedlings. Picture: SUPPLIED

PORT VILA, 26 OCTOBER 2018 (VANUATU DAILY POST) – Vanuatu’s former Ambassador to the European Union, Roy Mickey Joy, is calling on all stakeholders to unite to defend and develop the kava industry saying the world is watching Vanuatu, and warns all kava stakeholders in the private sector to stop all forms of infighting immediately.

The former defender of kava in the European Union has broken his silence on his invitation as one of the panelists at the National Kava Forum at the Convention Centre Thursday.

The theme of the Forum is: To be the leading producer of quality kava in the region and the world.

Joy called on all stakeholders to emphasise the importance of kava quality saying it cannot be compromised.

In addition, Joy has made one recommendation for the reactivation of the Pacific Islands Kava Council.

“Today as we speak negotiations has already started in Brussels on the new post Cottonou Agreement to replace the present one. I have led the discussions on all aspects of kava and today Vanuatu is the Leader in the world with its kava lactone which is recognised by the world. Fiji, Tonga and Samoa are behind us”, he explained.

“When I was in Brussels, I made sure that kava found its place as a new commodity of ACP for the first time since the organisation was born 40 years ago in George Town in Guyana in South America”.

He confirmed being the main man in Brussels to lead the discussions which resulted in the breakthrough for the EU to recognise Vanuatu as the one country which is the leader in the kava industry.

Forum Moderator and Director of Biosecurity, Timothy Tumukon supported Joy by saying, “We from Vanuatu have been playing the leading role in all aspects of kava beginning as the first country to develop our Kava Export Standard, we were the first to develop our Kava Act, we were the first to stand in front of the EU to fight against the German kava ban of 2002 and now we also make history by being the first country to organise this Kava Forum”.

He suggested that more farmers and representatives of MSG should also be present at the Forum. ACP Secretariat should also be present.

He named German Scientist Dr. Mathias Schmidt as one who should also be present saying the scientist owns his own company and was the person who successfully saw the kava ban processed through the German Administrative Court to victory.

“When I was in Brussels I made sure that Kava for the first time was added to the new commodity programme of ACP”, confirms Joy.

Meanwhile ACP was formed in George Town in Guyana in South America in 1975 when Lomé I was conceived. Within forty years only three products comprising sugar from the Caribbean, Jamaica and Fiji, Cocoa and cotton from countries in West Africa and bananas from the Caribbean Islands. Then recently comes kava. We worked hard to get kava to where it is in the world today”, Joy added.

He suggested that Government Ministers should make a special effort to be present at the Kava Forum because it is an achievement that they should be proud of.

Furthermore, he recalled, “When we arranged for the Prime Minister to address the EU on January 27 of 2017, the Secretary General of ACP from the Caribbean said to our Prime Minister, ‘Prime Minister, before you make your speech, I want to say thank you for your Ambassador. He is the man who has been up front bringing the issue of kava in this House. Nobody knew about kava until Roy came around to make a lot of noise to make us understand what kava really was. Today the full member states of EU are following the debate on kava”.

Looking back at the former issue of kava in the EU, Joy compares it to a battle between a tiny ant and giant elephants of South Africa which the tiny ant has miraculously won.

Director of Agriculture and Rural Development Antoine Ravo said it is timely for all stakeholders to meet at such a forum to share their experiences and challenges and adopt a collective stand to take Noble Kava forward in Vanuatu, in the Pacific Region and the world.

“The main objective of this forum is to establish dialogue to address kava production, supply challenges and the planning of the future of kava in Vanuatu”, the Director explained.

“While we focus on kava planting and kava processing, let us not forget our food security requirements and concentrate on planting kava and earning cash from our kava sales only to use our earnings to buy rice and tinned fish and noodles because processed foodstuff is not healthy for our bodies.

“This is the message I am appealing to all of you present today to deliver to other farmers in the villages and islands after this Forum. We must intercrop kava with manioc, banana, taro, kumala and other crops to balance our diet and meet our food security requirements”.

While maintaining kava crops for the next five years, a farmer can meanwhile harvest the other crops planted in between the kava plants. “This is the Government’s concern through the Ministry of Agriculture to address the importance of food security while focusing on cash crops especially kava.

On behalf of both the Minister and Acting Director General who were not present at the Forum, the Director thanked main sponsor NBV, Agriculture Bank, VBTC, and all prominent farmers for their contributions towards the Kava Forum.

In his overview of Kava Industry, Peter Iesul focused on production saying it is indeed the ‘green gold’ for those dealing with kava.

The commercialisation of kava in the last three decades has contributed big time to the reduction of crime and contributed big time to the livelihood of the farmers as well as the main actors in the industry.

Peter Iesul says according to estimates from business activities at kava bars, approximately Vt2 billion is made from 20-vatu food sales per year. This is an astronomical amount of money from an informal activity promoted by way of the operations of kava bars.

“I have made an approximate calculation for those who want to plant kava on a hectare of land, at a spacing of 2 metres by 2 metres. At maturity after five years at a green kava market price of Vt700 per kilo, you can earn an approximate amount of Vt35 million from one hectare of land”, he said.

“We must all work as one team in the production of kava to be recognised as the major producer of quality kava in the Pacific and the world,” he said.

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