Taki MaiTaki Mai

By Zane Yoshida

Fiji Kava Manual: The Way Ahead for the Kava Industry

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.

 

By Zane Yoshida

Taki Mai Wins the Fijian Prime Ministers International Business Award

Time to crack open another bag of instant Taki Mai kava powder and mix up a bowl!

We’re celebrating today at South Pacific Elixirs in the only way we know how – with a few shells of our favorite elixir.

That’s because we were honoured at the weekend to receive the Prime Ministers International Business of the Year Award for small business in Fiji.

You can see me with the Minister for Agriculture, Inia Seruiratu, in the picture above, and here’s a close up of the award:

After taking a battering from Winston, the kava industry in Fiji has had a lot to deal with this year; but there have been some great initiatives started for the future of the industry; and what a shot in the arm this award is, as we head into the New Year!

It’s going to be a huge 2017 for Taki Mai and the Fijian kava industry…we can already feel it!

By Zane Yoshida

What Is The Kava Bill – And How Does It Affect You?

In recent months you probably heard talk of a Kava Bill, if you’ve been following Fijian news at all.

Because of problems in recent years with European bans and in maintaining kava quality, calls have grown louder for measures to be introduced that help protect the key players in the industry, from the farmers through to the exporters.

When Cyclone Winston hit the country in February, the devastating consequences for many kava farmers in Fiji again reminded us of the fragile nature of the industry.

The Kava Bill is the Fijian government’s response to past problems and future opportunities. It had its first reading in the Fijian Parliament on 27th April 2016, and we take a closer look at it below.

What’s in the Kava Bill?

First and foremost the Kava Bill aims to:

establish the Fiji Kava Council for the purpose of the regulation and the management of the Kava Industry and its related matters.”

The Bill contains information about the functions and powers of the Fiji Kava Council, and details:

“a proper legal framework to establish the Council which will manage, administer and assist the growth of the kava industry”.

And it aims to:

“ensure that the trading of kava at domestic level and exported or imported at international level, will be done according to appropriate standards and procedures.”

Perhaps for the first time, this formally recognises kava as a key contributor to the Fijian economy and which requires adequate protection, as domestic and international demand increases. It also provides a formal platform for local kava farmers and exporters to voice problems and concerns.

While Fiji is a member of the International Kava Executive Council (IKEC), there is no legislation currently in place to manage the kava industry in the country; this understandably has many people in Fiji nervously looking over their shoulders.

A word from the president…

When the prime minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, opened the South Pacific Elixir factory on Ovalau island, he noted the following:

“Kava is one of our nation’s most cherished crops and Ovalau has long been known as one of Fiji’s premier kava-producing regions. Despite this, however, we have struggled over the years with exporting kava to overseas markets. Many of you will remember a few years ago when Europe’s demand for kava created a boom in the industry. Unfortunately, in the rush to take advantage of this windfall, little consideration was given to quality control. Leaves and stems were mixed with the roots and look what happened. There was no quality control. Governments must engender quality control and standards.”

So the Kava Bill is partly a response to this recognition that the Fijian kava industry is in a precarious position while it remains completely without regulation; it is very much a case of learning from past mistakes on that front.

Protection through quality

The future of the Fijian kava industry relies on protecting the high quality of its product. That’s behind the local Kava Bill and it’s also a regional consideration.

Recently, the WHO’s Regional Codex Committee met in Vanuatu to discuss the introduction of a kava standard, aimed at maintaining quality and preventing future damage to the reputation of kava.

This is an important step regionally; and the Kava Bill tackles the problem locally, by helping the industry focus on producing high quality, elite kava. This is the way forward, as it will protect everybody from the farmer to the consumer. That’s perhaps why nobody is seriously opposing the Kava Bill – except maybe a few of the ‘middlemen’ who currently profit from their monopolies over the farmers.

How are we involved?

South Pacific Elixirs is committed to working with local farmers on Ovalau, growing elite varieties of kava in our nurseries, and exporting the highest quality of kava overseas to new markets in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and elsewhere.

Our cultivation methods help to ensure disease-free, elite kava that delivers predictable and consistent properties. We hope that, by doing this, customers of Taki Mai always feel confident about the kava in their hands, and the reputation of Fiji’s kava farmers is also enhanced.

The Kava Bill will help us on all these fronts!

By Zane Yoshida

Where is Kava and Taki Mai Going in 2016?

2015 was another great year for building awareness about kava and Taki Mai.

In addition to the exciting release of our kava powder and capsules to supplement the four flavored kava shots, we received approval in Australia as a therapeutic good, and continued to grow our presence around Oceania, as well as in the US.

We closed the year in Australia with appearances at the Rugby 7s tournaments in Queensland and northern New South Wales, as well as appearances in Auckland (New Zealand), sponsoring well-attended events.

We are also growing awareness in Fiji with the Manai Island Resort using Taki Mai in a cocktail they have developed called Taki Mai Tai; there have also been plenty of educational exhibitions and product demos in Fiji.

What can you expect in 2016 in the US?

Towards the end of last year, a Fijian Ministry of Agriculture delegation went to the US and visited the Whole Foods Market in Scottsdale, Arizona. This is one of 50 outlets in the US where Taki Mai is sold, including supermarkets, pharmaceuticals, and department stores in the Pacific and Hawaii.

Taki Mai kava shots are sold as sports drinks that can calm, soothe and relax the body.

James Tonkin is company president, and he explained a little more about what can be expected in the coming year:

“Taki Mai products will be promoted in the major outlets through demo awareness to consumers and also in the Food shows in March 2016.”

Expect to see Taki Mai kava shots hit more store shelves this year. Judging by how many new kava bars are opening across the country, demand is spiraling.

Experience the calm from our online store

Another exciting development in 2016 is the unveiling of the Taki Mai online store.

Our online platform will be up and running by mid-January for deliveries of Taki Mai kava products in New Zealand and Australia.

This is hopefully the first step in being able to ship our kava all over the world, and we are working with our distributors to make it happen.

Key challenges in 2016

Of course there are always challenges –and a consistent kava supply is one of the key challenges for Taki Mai in the year ahead.

Only the finest kava from the island of Ovalau in Fiji is used and 70 contracted farmers on the island supply the natural root to maintain the flow of kava shots to the market:

“We are keen to increase our volume and push for the four flavored Taki Mai shots to the market, but our problem is always the supply of the two varieties we require from the farmer. These two varieties that have the kava lactones levels required for the special products,” Tonkin said.

The Fijian government is doing its bit to spread awareness of the potential that export markets hold; the Taki Mai nurseries in Ovalau also continue to be a shining light for the future quality of kava coming out of the island.

There is a recognition within the Fijian government, through the blossoming success of Taki Mai, that the country has a valuable and much sought after international commodity within its islands.

The acting Permanent Secretary for Agriculture in Fiji recently said:

“What the delegation have witnessed and observed from this visit has confirmed that Kava is one of the potential commodities for Fiji and the market is huge. We have not yet tapped into Australia and New Zealand with this product and then now you have Europe that just recently reopened its market.”

We will continue to push into new frontiers in 2016, to help our Ovalau farmers, Fiji as a whole, and kava lovers around the world.

Bula!

By Zane Yoshida

US Market for Fijian Kava Set to Grow

Fijian kava exports to the USA are set to grow and potentially earn the country $15 million, according to Acting Permanent Secretary for Agriculture in Fiji, Uraia Waibuta.

Fiji earned $20.9 million from kava exports between 2012 to 2014, so the U.S. market is a key contributor.

Mr. Waibuta, who is currently on a market scoping mission in the U.S, said that around 10 tonnes of kava is exported to the US per year and the potential is there for this to double.

Fiji currently produces around 4000 tonnes of kava from a total area of 1300 hectares and it will need to increase in order to meet growing worldwide demand for kava.

As well as visiting Northern California’s first kava bar for a taste of kava with an American-style twist, Mr. Waibuta met key kava importers in California.

Maintaining Fijian kava quality

“The Ministry of Agriculture will increase its efforts to support the Kava industry,” Mr Waibuta said, adding that kava nurseries would be established in key areas in Fiji. This will ensure that farmers can access good quality planting materials and maintain the quality standard demanded by the market.

The Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) is an Australian and New Zealand government funded programme to assist with the development of the Fiji Yaqona (Kava) Quality Manual.

The main aim is to help farmers and exporters identify the 13 ‘noble’ kava varieties in Fiji, areas in which these Kava varieties are cultivated, and also to run laboratory tests on the varieties with the best kavalactone level.

Within Fiji, public awareness campaigns about production, processing and a national kava standard based on food safety are going a long way to raising kava quality, which is key to maintaining growth in exports.

All kava entering the U.S. needs to meet strict safety regulations, requiring clearance by the Food & Drugs Administration (FDA), with analysis of its chemical compositions and kavalactone levels.

Taki Mai is proud to be doing its bit…

South Pacific Elixirs is on the frontline of maintaining kava quality, as our previous blog post about elite kava pointed out.

In order to ensure consistency in supply and quality of raw kava we are working with 70 contracted farmers in Lovoni, on the island of Ovalau, where all our kava originates.

We are also doing our bit to help the Fijian kava export market grow, with Taki Mai kava shots in four different flavors marketed through major supermarkets in the United States.

The shots are sold as sports drinks to calm, soothe, and relax of the body.

Company President James Tonkin pointed out that North American consumers are aware of the Taki Mai product and sales are beginning to grow in the U.S. It is sold in more than 50 outlets around the country, including pharmaceutical and department stores.

Taki Mai products will be promoted in major outlets and food shows in March 2016, with further product demos to raise awareness – so keep your eyes peeled for one near you!

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Fiji Kava Manual: The Way Ahead for the Kava Industry
Taki Mai Wins the Fijian Prime Ministers International Business Award
What Is The Kava Bill – And How Does It Affect You?
Where is Kava and Taki Mai Going in 2016?
US Market for Fijian Kava Set to Grow