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By Zane Yoshida

Producing Nations Set To Up Quality of Kava

In the coming months and years we expect to see a gradual rise in the quality of kava coming out of the South Pacific kava producing nations.

That’s not just because we, at South Pacific Elixirs, have been pioneering our elite kava nurseries in Ovalau, Fiji, to grow the highest possible grade of disease-free kava. It’s also because this message is being broadcast loud and clear to all the major producers in the region.

One bad kava story…

With the world becoming more interested in kava, and the message finally getting out that kava is not only safe, but promotes good health and lowers stress, it’s a timely reminder to keep the quality of kava up for exports.

Since the German ban was overturned in February 2014, there has been a rise in demand, as new markets have become interested in importing the root in supplement form. The EU has even agreed to conduct a new kava study.

As demand is set to boom, there is a rush to produce more. At the same time, one bad story can ruin the industry. It was a very few cases of liver damage reported in Europe (from inferior quality of kava) that previously led to the kava ban on Europe and lots of adverse publicity.

The calls for an increase in quality are to avoid the type of ‘image’ problems that kava has suffered from recently.

Maintaining quality of kava for export

Radio New Zealand International reported at the end of April:

“Kava-producing countries have been put on notice that nothing less than top quality exports are crucial in ensuring the industry thrives.

Scientists are now analysing kava from across the Pacific to formulate a gold standard and find easier ways of weeding out kava varieties of a lesser quality described as “non-noble”.

The chair of the International Kava Executive Council, Tagaloa Eddie Wilson, says there will always be importers looking for cheaper varieties and governments need to get tough.

‘There are certain traders in the industry that are still finding their way to get hold of this and export them. That is a no-no, industry in the Pacific has met several times and they have agreed that this kava which is non-noble must never be used in the trade.’”

Keeping kava ‘noble’

‘Noble’ kava is another name for the ‘elite kava’ that Taki Mai supplements are made from. It is the highest grade available, and countries like Vanuatu have already passed legislation (the ‘Kava Act’) to outlaw exports of inferior or ‘non-noble’ kava.

Failure to prevent export of these ‘non-noble’ varieties of kava is perhaps what led to some of the problems in the past.

It is important for customers of Taki Mai to know that we take kava cultivation seriously – as shown by the previously-referenced article on our kava nurseries in Ovalau, Fiji.

Not only is the quality of kava the best available, we have received good manufacturing practice (GMP) accreditation; and we produce medicinal grade kava that is certified in Australia as a therapeutic good. So you can feel perfectly safe taking our kava shots, powder, or capsules.

By Zane Yoshida

Cyclone Pam and the Effects on Kava Production

The devastation caused by Cyclone Pam, which hit Vanuatu back in March of this year, has also hit kava production on the islands.

While the rebuilding process has started to piece the country back together, following one of the worst natural disasters in Vanuatu’s history, the kava farmers and the industry as a whole may take longer to recover.

Kava is a slow-growing crop that generally takes between three and six years to mature. So there is no “quick fix” for the loss felt by the local farmers and the damage it has done to the economy of Vanuatu.

Coping with the devastation

Even in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone, kava was a comfort for many locals, as they came to terms with what had happened to their home. Reuters reported the following:

“Ignoring calls to stay at home, men were gathering among the debris of blasted trees and twisted corrugated iron to swap news of the storm over a drink of kava, a mildly intoxicating brew that is deeply embedded in the social fabric of Pacific islanders.”

Between 11 and 15 people lost their lives because of the cyclone; the country was thankful it wasn’t more, with massive damage caused across the chain of islands, which lie to the west of Fiji.

Damage to kava production

Reuters also reported about the “devastated kava crop”, which is “a major export and vital source of cash for subsistence farmers in the South Pacific island nation.” Prime Minister Joe Natuman said:

“The economy will be seriously affected. The tourism sector will be affected … Kava will also be affected.”

A Radio Australia report estimated that 96 per cent of the country’s root crops were damaged, according to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. Damage to the kava crop was estimated by Vincent Lebot, a French geneticist based in Vanuatu, who suggested that about a third of the country’s crop had been destroyed.

The southern island of Tanna was particularly severely hit. The following comment from Lebot shows how far-reaching the impact of the kava crop is in the South Pacific:

“The impact will be very severe on the local economy. Many children continue to go to school because their parents pay the school fees thanks to kava.”

Cultural effects

Because kava is deeply embedded in the fabric of South Pacific life, damage to its availability also affects the region culturally and spiritually.

As well as being a much-loved social drink, and a way of bringing parties together to talk, kava has long been the drink of chiefs and spiritual leaders in the region. According to Apo Aporosa, from New Zealand’s Massey University:

“Kava is the dominant cultural icon for Pacifica people and the icon of identity for them…When a child is born, kava is presented and for a lot of Pacifica people, they believe that if you fail to do that, the child’s life is cursed.”

Ronnie’s Nakamal, a particularly well-known kava bar in the capital, Port Vila, was razed to the ground by the cyclone. This bar was a 28-year stalwart of the kava scene, with owner Ronnie Watson introducing the delights of kava to countless tourists and expats, as well as locals. The Australian reported:

“The only thing left standing is a big, white freezer with a drum of kava inside that had been mixed the night before.”

There were over 100 kava bars in Port Vila before the cyclone. Kava in Vanuatu is known for being stronger than in Fiji, because the locals there usually drink it without drying the root first. This means that it can be a little “unpredictable”.

With the recent devastation from the cyclone, the whole of the kava industry in Vanuatu is set to become a little unpredictable. Best wishes for a quick recovery!

Producing Nations Set To Up Quality of Kava
Cyclone Pam and the Effects on Kava Production