27 Feb 2006

Vanuatu leaders in dispute over kava exports

1:01 pm on 27 February 2006

A dispute has broken out within Vanuatu's government over the marketing and export of kava.

A unilateral order has been made by Vanuatu's prime minister for Vanuatu's Commodities Marketing Board to take over duties of certifying and exporting Kava.

Previously this was done by the department of fisheries and quarantine services.

The minister of agriculture, livestock, forestry and fisheries, Barak Sope, says making such a move without prior consultation could threaten the solidarity of the prime minister's coalition regime.

Mr Sope told the Daily Post newspaper through his first political adviser, Richard Kaltonga, that he was shocked by the order as he was not advised in advance, as set out in the memorandum of agreement singed when a government was formed.

Mr Sope also says it does not make sense to take the kava services away from his portfolio, as quarantine staff are the sole authority to determine the quality of kava and approve of kava for export.

Mr Sope said VCMB is a bankrupt public company and the staff does not have the expertise or credibility to determine and approve any kava destined for export.

Vanuatu's chamber of commerce and industries president, Joseph Jacobe, has appealed to the government not to monopolise kava saying if the government is serious about wanting to see a private sector-led growth then kava must remain an open commodity for anyone to buy and export it.

Kava is the third largest foreign revenue earner for the country.