The regional kava industry has been through some tough times but things are looking up in Fiji and beyond. The Fiji Kava Manual is an initiative to spread the word about high-quality kava farming practices that will help protect the industry well into the future…
After losing an estimated one hundred and thirteen million dollars due to Tropical Cyclone Winston last year, the kava industry in Fiji is at the start of a slow recovery process. New plants will take a few years to mature, so supplies are not likely to reach pre-Winston levels for some time.
However, the National Fijian Quality Standard for kava was developed to set minimum standards for kava exports; and recent initiatives between the Pacific Community, government, and industry stakeholders are looking to ensure that the good name of kava is protected into the foreseeable future.
I was especially proud to attend the Kava National Training Workshop in Suva recently; this was a ‘train the trainer’ workshop aimed at demonstrating how farmers in each region of the country can improve the quality and standard of the kava they grow.
It was led by the Pacific Agriculture Policy Project Team Leader, Vili Caniogo, who said that it was important to familiarise trainers with the new Fiji Kava Manual. This will help provide awareness of the minimum standards of kava crop varieties.
Fiji National Yaqona Association president, Kini Salabogi, noted that the farmers themselves were usually left out of the training and development of kava farms. The theory is often not carried out in practice on the farms, so the new training and kava manual initiatives hope to address that problem.
Fiji is considered to be ‘lucky’ in that the 13 varieties of kava grown on the islands are all safe to consume. In Vanuatu, however, there are some sub-standard varieties considered unsafe to drink.
A statement released by the Yaqona taskforce (pictured above) overseeing these recent developments in the Fijian kava industry said:
“Much is known about how the kava export industry was plagued by health and product safety concerns in the past, particularly in the mid-late nineties. An underlying threat to these concerns was the lack of quality standards, lack of testing and traceability as well as awareness as to what kava varieties were being exported and consumed.”
“This is a solid platform for kava farmers in Fiji and more assistance is required to ensure that this effort is built on and sustained.”
It is hoped that, by the end of this year, all kava farmers across Fiji are using the new quality standards of planting, handling, processing and testing of kava products.