16 Jul 2018

Quality standards being developed for Pacific kava

7:35 am on 16 July 2018

Avoiding a ban such as that imposed by Germany in the early 2000s, and instilling confidence in an increasing global market, are two of the key reasons for the quality standards being developed for Pacific kava.

A kava bowl

A kava bowl Photo: RNZ / Jamie Tahana

The governments of Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu have partnered with the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access programme, or PHAMA, to develop the standards for the industry.

The new initiative will also develop manuals that explain production methods, provide cost-effective testing methods and push to establish more kava nurseries.

Deputy Team Leader of the PHAMA Program Semy Siakimotu said quality control of the kava needed to be at every step of the way, and should start in the fields with local farmers.

"It's all about empowering them to understand what the quality standard is, what their responsibilities are. And what the quality standards mean for them and how they support their industry."

He said the quality standards have a strong focus on food safety.

"So those quality standards stipulate which part of the kava plant are used, how they are prepared an acceptable moisture content and so forth."

He said that Tonga was also involved in the discussions and that the new standards could have positive spinoffs for other Pacific countries that have kava industries.

"We're hoping that through this work other programmes will be involved in the value chain and be able to provide assistance to some of the [other] countries, and the stake holders that are involved in kava planting and kava exports."

Semy Siakimotu said that it was important to strike the balance between kava being treated as a sacred, traditional drink and harnessing the economic opportunities it presents for the Pacific.

"We also need to make sure that the benefit goes right back to those communities where the hard work is being done - and that's right back to the farm level."

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