As Fiji recovers from the effects of Cyclone Winston, and local Fijians face a shortage of their beloved root, increasing kava demand from overseas is putting extra pressure on the kava market.
It’s been well reported that farmers were forced to harvest early on some of the major kava producing islands in Fiji; this has led to price increases and shortages of kava a few months down the line.
It’s not just Fiji feeling the strain, either. A recent severe drought destroyed many plantations in nearby Vanuatu.
This has wide-reaching implications, not just on quantity – but also on quality. Pacific nation governments are currently on a drive to educate farmers in the region about the importance of quality, both for domestic and export markets, so any downturn in quality due to the shortages will not be welcome.
Meeting local and international kava demand
In truth, the governments know how important kava is to the local economy, so every effort will be taken to maintain its quality.
Fiji earned $20.9 million from kava exports between 2012 and 2014, and this is on the increase; exports to the US alone are expected to reach $15 within the next 12 months.
There have been many challenges to the kava industry in recent years – not only from climactic effects on crops, but kava bans too. So the present shortage is just one more hurdle to pass. The renewed focus on ‘noble’ kava varieties will help to safeguard the all-important future of the industry.
Kava is gaining popularity in the west for both its medicinal properties (anti-anxiety, especially) and as a healthier alternative to alcohol.
In the United States, there are already over 100 kava bars. Increasingly, these have been opening in major urban centres like New York and Chicago, instead of the traditional kava bar beach communities of California and Florida.
In New Zealand, a country with a population of only 4.5 million, it is estimated that 20-25,000 people drink kava on a Friday or Saturday night.
Kava is a slow-growing crop and can take five years for its roots to mature. There are no short-term solutions to meeting increasing demand. But, by maintaining quality now, the growing worldwide reputation of kava will only increase in years to come – and that’s what really matters.
That’s why we have invested our own time and efforts into growing elite kava varieties in our nurseries on Ovalau Island in Fiji. This represents the future of Taki Mai shots, capsules, and instant kava!