Taki MaiTaki Mai

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

The Kava Industry Is Islands Business!

The November issue of Islands Business features guess who on the front?

We’re proud to see Taki Mai front and centre – a testament to all the hard work put in by our team over the past few years. It’s wonderful that we are receiving recognition not only within the local kava industry, but nationally and internationally too.

You may have read my recent blog post about our partnership with Applied Food Sciences in the States. This was reported in the Fiji Times recently too.

And no sooner has that been announced than we get the front cover and a great spread in the premier business publication in the Pacific Islands region. Things are really moving forward at great speed, finally…

The Islands Business article

Islands Business was established more than 30 years ago and has experienced correspondents based in all the major Pacific Islands nations. It is distributed throughout the islands, as well as to subscribers in Australia, New Zealand, US, UK, Southeast Asia, and Japan.

This prestigious magazine features a detailed article in the November issue on the future of kava and the influence that South Pacific Elixirs (that’s us, folks!) is having on the regional kava industry.

It opens by saying that “an ancient crop is emerging as a game changer for island economies”. This echoes what the Fijian government and everyone involved closely with the kava industry has started to recognise in recent years, as the industry repairs its name following the European ban.

It covers how we have helped bring together other island nations to create a regional kava standard endorsed by the Codex Commission in Rome, which will help protect the future of the regional kava industry.

It talks of tens of millions of dollars of potential revenue for the Pacific producing nations – especially Fiji and Vanuatu. Fiji has also taken the initiative itself in creating the Kava Bill.

The article also covers how ‘unclean’, poor quality kava has created problems in the past and how the island of Ovalau, where our Taki Mai nursery, farms, and production facility are all based, is leading the way in Fiji and slowly becoming the country’s kava centre.

Finally, it covers how the threats of stricter regulations and bans in Australia can be thwarted by the proposed kava standard receiving international recognition through the Codex Commission. It considers how this will be the ‘crowning glory’ for kava, opening up export markets around the world and changing the lives of thousands of farmers across the region.

Thank you Islands Business for making kava and Taki Mai part of your business!

By Zane Yoshida

Helping Ovalau Kava Farmers After Winston

A new quality assurance initiative is being introduced on the Fijian island of Ovalau this week to help kava farmers there – and we’re proud to be behind it.

The system is designed to help generate increased profits and a steady income for kava farmers in the wake of Cyclone Winston which, as you know, severely impacted the kava industry across Fiji.

What is the Participant Guarantee System (PGS)?

The Participant Guarantee System (PGS) is an initiative originally designed by the Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (PARDI) which is funded by the Australian government and coordinated by The University of Queensland.

Its overall aim is to create sustainable developments for South Pacific agribusiness, improving the livelihoods of South Pacific farmers and their families.

The PGS is a quality assurance initiative, whereby the farmers guarantee reliable and consistent quality and a regular supply of premium produce and, in return, the major buyers (such as resorts) guarantee to accept a certain quantity of the produce and to pay a good price for it.

The following video explains more about the PGS and how it’s helping all types of farmers around Fiji.

As you can see, the system wasn’t designed for kava farmers. It was originally piloted with 16 vegetable farmers near the capital, Suva, and will expand to other regions around Fiji.

The support it provides to smallholders, who traditionally have little market power, is encouraging farmers to produce higher quality and greater quantities of produce, because of the guaranteed market demand.

It is a win-win for the farmers and the businesses buying the vegetables and the success of the scheme has led to a similar initiative being set up for kava.

How does it work for Ovalau kava farmers?

Kava farmers on the island of Ovalau are smallholders. This is the island where South Pacific Elixirs has set up its Taki Mai operations and we have our nurseries and production facilities there. It’s also where I was born, so I have a keen interest in helping the island prosper.

Dr. Rob Erskine Smith, from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia (who can be seen in the above video above) received a small grant from the EU through the Increasing Agricultural Commodity Trade (IACT) program. This was designed to help the kava farmers on Ovalau with a structured rebuilding program after Winston, and to secure a more reliable supply chain.

South Pacific Elixirs has helped develop the initiative in terms of quality control input and together we are forming nine farmers’ groups on the island.

Kava farmers join up to become members of one of the nine groups, which function as individual companies. Each has a president, secretary and treasurer, with the company owned equally by members. Training is provided and profits are paid to members according to the produce they supply, while a small sum is retained for company operations such as cool room costs, transport, and marketing. Each company has more buying power for fertiliser and other essential supplies and this is another benefit of becoming a member.

As one of the main buyers of kava on the island, South Pacific Elixirs is proud to be throwing our weight behind the initiative and supporting the farmers there.

What are the benefits for the kava farmers?

As you see from the video, the PGS has a real impact on the lives of smallholder farmers around Fiji. As a coordinated group with consistent quality produce, they are able to attract premium prices, allowing for extra profits to be used to improve farms and households.

Rather than the profits going to market entrepreneurs (such as middle men) they end up in the farmers’ pockets.

The tomato farmers in the video were able to pipe water from the source to improve irrigation on their land, buy cattle, and build more solid houses. With a steadier income, they can afford to fund better education for their children.

The hope is that similar benefits will come to Ovalau kava farmers as a result of the system being put in place there.

By Zane Yoshida

The World Is Waking Up To Why It Needs Kava

Ever so slowly…in a relaxed, kava-like way…the world seems to be waking up to why it needs a good supply of kava.

A recent press release by the American Botanical Council announced the ‘adoption’ of kava by Applied Food Sciences National Center on Sleep Disorders Research(AFS), an Austin, Texas-based company.

The Adopt-an-Herb program is an ABC initiative to provide a valuable resource for consumers, students, and members of the herb and dietary supplement community. It links to an online database with comprehensive scientific and clinical research data on over 250 herbs.

South Pacific Elixirs (makers of Taki Mai) have partnered with Applied Food Sciences to start educating people around the world about the need for high-quality kava; and we hope that through this partnership, we can help the world wake up a little more to why it needs kava.

As Mark Blumenthal, ABC’s founder and executive director, says:

“Kava is an herb with a long ethnobotanical history in Polynesia, and it produces clinically-documented anti-anxiety benefits.”

The great work of Applied Food Sciences

AFS specializes in the research and development of functional botanical ingredients for use in foods, beverages, and nutritional supplements.

They recently released KAVOA™ – a kava extract that helps with relaxation, stress relief, and sleep support. As you will know, plenty of evidence exists linking kava to these three beneficial effects, amongst others.

The company’s partnership with the American Botanical Council will help to clarify concerns about the safety of kava and communicate more about its benefits. Chris Fields, vice president of scientific affairs at AFS, said:

“Kava’s long history of use in the South Pacific islands demonstrates that it is a safe, effective, and useful tool with many important health benefits when used in the right form and when the correctly identified cultivars are used,”

“Applied Food Sciences is fully invested in working together with farmers, agronomists, and the research community to provide the entire supply chain with the appropriate tools to bring sustainable, safe, and high-quality kava ingredients to the market.”

The company has been heavily involved in educating farmers about cultivating noble kava cultivars and best practices for harvesting and processing kava.

As you will be aware if you have been reading this blog, this is very much in line with our own direction: advocating the raising of standards of kava quality and producing elite varieties that are disease-free and that produce consistent, predictable, known effects from their kavalactone content.

Addressing safety concerns

There is growing awareness around the world that kava is safe but only because of the efforts of those helping to address concerns.

An article from AFS, which appeared on PS Newswire details how the company has identified five main reasons for safety concerns with kava production. These are:

  • Use of Non-Noble or incorrect chemotype cultivars(s).
  • Unstandardized harvesting practices (yielding byproduct contamination to the kava before processing).
  • Use of the incorrect parts of the plant, namely the peelings and stems (instead of the root and rhizome).
  • Inadequate methods of manufacturing for producing standardized extracts (low quality, unstandardized extracts).
  • Lack of scientifically validated methods for measurement of actives (kavalactones and chalcones).

You will be aware that many initiatives are now in place to address these concerns – from the Kava Bill in Fiji to a regional kava standard that is seeking approval from the WHO and FAO.

Growing demand around the world

The above-mentioned article also highlights how there has never been more of a need for kava in the U.S.

The Director of Marketing for AFS explains:

“Individuals spend their day searching for ways to increase energy trying to get more done during the day …combine that with the ongoing stimulation from technology at night and we are left hardwired, unable to unwind.”

With the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research stating that around 70 million Americans report having sleep problems, and this problem being mirrored in most urbanised populations around the world, news about the relaxation and sleep benefits of kava are making a timely resurgence in the media.

This will undoubtedly help to increase demand around the world – which is great news for everyone concerned.

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!

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Taki Mai Wins the Fijian Prime Ministers International Business Award
The Kava Industry Is Islands Business!
Helping Ovalau Kava Farmers After Winston
The World Is Waking Up To Why It Needs Kava
What Is The Kava Bill – And How Does It Affect You?