The head of Vanuatu's agriculture ministry has suspended the issuing and renewal of all kava export licences, citing concerns that farmers are being ripped off by exporters.
Moses Amos said over the Christmas and New Year period, kava exporters drastically reduced their buying price for dried kava chips, in the worst case by almost 90 percent.
Mr Amos said farmers were told the reductions were due to a glut in the market.
However, he suspected they were being exploited by exporters who knew farmers desperately needed cash over the holidays, and when preparing to send their children to school.
"The normal price is being paid between $VT3000 ($US26) to $VT4000 per kilo of dried kava, kava chips.
"That price has been reduced to $VT2800 and further down to $VT1500 and in some communities they are being offered $500 vatu for a kilo of dried chips. And I think that is a bit of a rip off," he said.
Mr Amos has called for a meeting with all kava exporters and industry stakeholders this Friday to discuss the ministry's plans to introduce new regulations around kava pricing and export.
"At the moment in the kava export industry there is very limited controls. With this experience we are now going to put in some measures to control," he said.
"For instance we are seeking some legal advice from the state law office to see whether or not the minister has the power under the Kava Act to prescribe a fee, a domestic, a minimum fee for kava so then the kava exporters don't have the luxury of meddling with kava prices."