30 Nov 2023

Kava farmers in Vanuatu want govt assistance

3:20 pm on 30 November 2023
MV Tina with Pentecost kava at Port Vila wharf this week.

MV Tina with Pentecost kava at Port Vila wharf this week. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Hilaire Bule

Tons of kava from the Vanuatu island of Pentecost, damaged during Tropical Cyclone Lola, continue to arrive in Port Vila almost daily.

Kava farmers have told the Daily Post that they have already lost tons of their plants which have been severely damaged by the storm.

They said kava is their main source of income and it will take more that five years for the wrecked kava farms to be ready for the harvest.

They said during that period they will have no means of income.

The farmers said that during Covid19, the government had a stimulus package and they would like it to consider something similar to remedy their plight.

They said kava contributes a lot to the economy and they were just recovering from cyclone Pam when Lola hit.

Without the crop ships will not service all the anchorages of Pentecost as they usually do, the farmers said.

Pentecost is the main island in Vanuatu to supply the kava to local, regional and international markets.

"If there was no kava on the island, the ships will not service us all most every day in a week. If there was no kava, public transports in Port Vila will not queue at the wharf during the arrival of the ships" they said.

They said the kava business in Port Vila employs more that one thousand people in the kava bars and machines to ground the kava, while it gives opportunity to people who would otherwise be unemployed.

"Unemployed people in Port Vila, made their living out of the kava. They sell kava every night in order to raise the money to buy bred and butter in the morning and to pay kids to school. Kava also makes revenue for the public transport."

Meanwhile, since Lola the price of kava has slumped with it selling in the capital for about a third of what it had been selling for prior to the cyclone.

"Before TC Lola, the price of 1.5 liters was 1,500 vatu but now some kava bars have reduce their price to 500 vatu," they said.

The kava farmers believe it is unfair for the government to subsidise the price of the copra to meet the price at the world market and not addressing the damage of their plants by the cyclones.