What are the opportunites for kava in a world barely constrained by geography and distance? Where you can choose freshly-caught Indian Ocean tuna from supermarket shelves in Europe; or enjoy French cheese and wine on a remote island in the South Pacific?
The ‘globalised world’ certainly makes many things possible for kava – and that is perhaps what is behind the recent activities to start regulating and protecting the kava industry in the South Pacific region.
A few years ago kava was barely known outside of the region. Now people are experiencing the benefits of kava in the kava bars and health food stores of the U.S. and Europe.
But this is only the start. If things are managed well, there should be a bright new dawn for kava farmers and exporters everywhere. This point was made in a recent Aljazeera report from New Zealand, which talks of kava’s assured place in a ‘modern, globalised world’.
Constraints and challenges
Unfortunately, there are plenty of constraints and challenges for the kava industry to overcome first. Some of these include:
- Kava is a slow growing crop – taking up to six years to fully mature and be ready for harvest.
- It is susceptible to disease and natural disasters – which can devastate crops and reduce supplies, such as experienced after Cyclone Winston earlier this year.
- Kava strength and effects can vary – different kava varieties produce different kavalactone concentrations and different ‘chemotypes’, which produce different effects.
- Quality can vary – without strict regulations, manufacturers do not have clear standards to abide by.
- Western government regulations are often heavily weighted against developing countries, making it difficult for kava to break-through into international markets.
The opportunities for kava
However, with these challenges comes great opportunity.
Kava’s relaxing properties are quite well understood but the true limits of its medicinal properties are really just being explored. Whilst Fijians and other Pacific islanders have been extolling the health benefits of kava on the islands for centuries, proving these to the rest of the world is another matter.
But huge potential exists in this area. People are becoming less trusting of pharmaceuticals and interest in alternative medicine is growing.
The Aljazeera video above mentions how exponents of Chinese medicine are becoming increasingly interested in the properties of kava. If this catches on, then it’s a question of how supply can meet soaring demand from China and elsewhere.
We have only just scratched the surface when it comes to investigating the properties of kava as an alternative treatment for insomnia, stress, depression, and other ailments.
In-depth clinical studies are expensive, and beyond the budgets of most interested parties. But there is potential if groups join forces for funding. And, given the potential gains, it could be a worthwhile investment, as kava continues to repair its reputation after the now-overturned European bans.
Meanwhile, we at South Pacific Elixirs will continue to do our bit to establish elite, disease-free varieties of kava that produce predictable and consistent effects; and to support the push for kava standards to be developed for the region, as this can only be good for the future of kava.