Taki MaiTaki Mai

By Zane Yoshida

The Way Forward For Fijian Kava

After the trials faced by the Fijian kava industry in recent months, it was great to see one of our ‘elite’ kava saplings emerge from the lab this week.

Our previous post focused on the present kava shortages. The Fijian kava industry has been hit hard by the devastating cyclone back in March.

This one is all about the way forward for kava, and its bright future.

Rehabilitating the kava industry: an opportunity

As the Fijian kava industry rebuilds, there is an opportunity to establish itself firmly as the world leader in the production of high quality or ‘elite’ kava.

Already known for its high quality amongst Pacific kava-producing nations, steps are being taken to up the ante in quality in Fiji.

As reported in a previous post, South pacific Elixirs has been working with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) on an ‘elite kava’ project that has been co-funded by the Australian Government.

The project, called Development of a mass propagation system for elite varieties of Piper methysticum (kava), is now starting to bear fruit. The photo above, taken in the lab at the University of the South Pacific, is evidence of this.

The project set out to establish a rapid propagation system for clean planting material. Its over-arching aim was to provide world-leading kava quality and improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Fiji.

New kava propagation methods

Traditionally, kava propagation uses the stem of the plant to make cuttings. This may increase the risk of disease being passed on from plant to plant.

The production of a disease-free, high quality kava is seen as vital to protecting the future of the kava industry. As exports rise and world attention increasingly focuses on kava as bans are lifted, the need to maintain the highest quality possible is in everybody’s interests.

The stated goal our project is:

“…to develop an efficient and effective propagation system for ensuring a sustained and uniform supply of quality planting material of the selected variety.”

High quality kava cultivars help to eliminate the problem of ‘Kava dieback’. This is a rapidly spreading black soft rot of the stem tissue. Symptoms appear on the leaves a few weeks before the visible rot starts, and it is a problem around the entire Pacific area.

Back in 2005, around 40% of the Fijian kava crop was wiped out. When problems arise, it’s a long way back for the kava industry, because kava does not produce seeds and it takes several years to grow.

When the problems are as severe as those experienced in the wake of Cyclone Winston, a lack of high quality stems available for propagation exacerbates the situation.

Our solution creates tissue cultures that maintain a constant supply of high quality, disease-free new kava plants:

“Once ‘clean’ kava plants are established in the nursery, the growth of axillary buds can be accelerated to produce material from which tissue cultures can be established.”

Since Winston then, the program has taken on new meaning as a way forward for the Fijian kava industry as a whole. We are in the process of training others in these propagation methods so that they can be used more in commercial nurseries.

It’s onwards and upwards for the Fijian kava industry from here- and we are proud to be part of the solution.

By Zane Yoshida

Taki Mai Kava Featured at an Australian Government-Organised Event in Fiji

More great news for South Pacific Elixirs and lovers of Taki Mai kava shots recently.

Kava was featured at an Australian Centre for Agricultural Research (ACIAR) show held in Fiji at the end of June. This provided more great exposure for our favourite South Pacific crop, as well as educating the audience about the safety and health benefits of commercial kava.

South Pacific Elixirs was proud to help out at the kava stall, giving attendees the opportunity to access kava research information, discover some of the potential health benefits of kava, and to taste a range of Taki Mai kava supplements.

The PARDI workshop and market day

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) marked the completion of the first phase of its Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (PARDI) with a two-day Impact Workshop and Market Day on Monday 29th and Tuesday 30th June 2015, held at the Hotel Novotel Suva Lami Bay, in Fiji.

PARDI has been working since 2010 to understand the factors that contribute to successful agribusiness development in the rural and coastal communities of the South Pacific region.

The initiative encourages the sharing and adaptation of research, and supports supply-chain and market-driven research in the forestry, fisheries and crops sectors; kava of course falls into the latter area and is of particular interest because of its benefits to poor, rural communities in the region.

The workshop included a series of presentations highlighting the technical outcomes and implications of PARDI research projects. The market day featured interactive stalls showcasing some of PARDI’s products and successes in agribusiness research.

What did they say about Kava?

Kava was one of the featured crops along with breadfruit, taro, papaya, and high value vegetables. Here is how the PARDI brochure introduced kava:

Kava (Piper methysticum – ‘intoxicating pepper’) has been a ceremonial drink in the Pacific since time immemorial, and is noted for its calming and soporific effects. These effects are becoming more widely known and sought after by the global health supplements market, where kava is seen as an alternative to sleeping pills and other prescription medicines. A recent announcement by a German court to overturn a long-standing ban on kava sales is likely to fuel consumer demand for kava. The ACIAR/PARDI Impact Workshop and Market Day will give you the chance to experience the benefits of kava and learn how research and development will support its development as a high-quality kava extract to secure and maintain markets.

Why Taki Mai kava?

As the makers of Taki Mai kava supplements, South Pacific Elixirs has been working with PARDI on the development of a mass propagation system for elite varieties of kava since 2014.

This project aims to support the development of a rapid propagation system for clean planting material that remains disease-free, and provides the foundation for successful commercial kava enterprises.

Kava dieback is soft rot that can be a serious problem in many countries in the Pacific, sometimes completely wiping out production; our work with PARDI helps to eliminate this danger from our elite varieties and in doing so we hope to raise the bar for kava quality across the region and provide the gold standard for export-quality kava.

Collaboration with PARDI is another step along this path.

The Way Forward For Fijian Kava
Taki Mai Kava Featured at an Australian Government-Organised Event in Fiji