14 Aug 2007

Kava expert in Vanuatu says Australia should reconsider move to ban kava

10:26 am on 14 August 2007

A kava expert in Vanuatu's agriculture department says Australia should reconsider its move to ban the crop, because it will cripple economies in the Pacific.

Vincent Lebot says research proves kava is harmless, and he says Fiji has a strong case to win if it decides to take Australia to the World Trade Organisation over the ban.

The ban deals with the traditional beverage in its dry powder form.

From 26 June 2007, Australia banned imports of the crop because of significant health problems among Aboriginal communities.

The only exception is for medicinal and scientific purposes, and the importation of up to 2 kg of kava in the baggage of incoming travellers.

He says Vanuatu, who has also exported kava to Australia, has also threatend trade action, because of how the ban would affect the economy.

"The impact is going to be considerable because kava is the major source of income for the farmers in Vanuatu and its the first export commodity in Vanuatu. So the damage is going to be serious because it is affecting directly the reputation of a natural product exported from Vanuatu and which is the main cash crop."

Vincent Lebot says it's more of an internal matter and Australia should address the misuse of the crop among Aboriginies, rather then impose a ban on imports from Pacific countries.