Better control policies for exporting kava needed in Vanuatu
Better control policies for exporting kava needed in Vanuatu, otherwise the country may face a ban in the United States.
A kava researcher in Vanuatu says better quality controls must be put on kava being exported, or the product could be banned from the United States like it was in the European Union.
International experts met at a kava symposium in Fiji last week, to discuss the illegal exporting of the high yielding, but potentially toxic, tuday kava.
Vincent Lebot says despite provisions in Vanuatu's Kava Act, tuday kava is still being consumed locally and sent overseas, partly because of poor quality control systems.
He told Mary Baines researchers are trying to develop simple techniques to be used by traders, importers and farmers to ensure noble varieties of kava are the only types being traded.
VINCENT LABOT: We know that it is being exported, unfortunately. Although in Vanuatu the parliament passed a law in December 2002 to make sure that the industry is regulated, and that only the so-called Noble varieties are legal and all the other varieties should be illegal. We know that unfortunately the so-called tuday kava are planted and sold on the local market and for export. So this is a fact. And the problem is to find out how we could enforce that law that exists. Because some farmers, some traders are not respecting the Kava Act.
MARY BAINES: I understand there's a concern that if this Kava Act isn't properly enforced there could be more of an impact on the export market than there already is, you know, problems exporting to the US as well as the EU.
VL: That's our major concern right now. We've lost the EU market already and we are attempting to convince the EU countries to lift up the ban because we believe that they were wrong in the first place, because they were not selling what we call kava, the water solution, but they were selling some concentrate extract. There is an important US market for the traditional beverage, and this market is expanding. Now unfortunately we are not satisfying the demand there with strict quality control. And it is possible anytime that some poor quality batches are exported to the US if the US companies are not strict enough in their quality control procedures.
MB: So how can the protocols of the Kava Act be enforced and these quality control policies as well?
VL: We are trying to develop some simple quality control techniques - some techniques that could be used by the traders, the importers or even the farmers to make sure the controlled product is being traded. I think the international market is out there for high quality product, unfortunately the constraint is to make sure that we are controlling the quality from A to Z. I think you can compare the system that should be in place to what the wine industry is using. Basically farmers have to use the proper clone, the proper variety, they have to process it in the proper way, and all of that has been regulated. If the industry succeeds in developing such a system, I think that the market is potentially very important. If we do not control quality we will have other problems such as the one we faced in the EU in 2002.