Global cultivation of kava a reminder to protect the commodity

A yaqona farm in Kadavu. Picture: FILE

The successful cultivation of kava in other parts of the world is a reminder of the pressing need to protect kava as a commodity associated with countries in the Pacific region, said the Ministry of Trade permanent secretary, Shaheen Ali.

In his address at the inception meeting in Suva this week for the “Scoping Study on Development of the Kava-Based Pharmaceutical/Nutraceutical Industry in the Pacific” initiative, Mr Ali said the development of Geographical Indicators (GI) and Intellectual Property protection were especially urgently needed in order to protect small-scale farmers as interest grows in value-adding the commodity.

“Like we have done for agricultural commodities like sugar – there is real potential for kava product diversification.

“We know there is demand, not just within the Pacific, but growing interest from markets such as North America, the European Union and Asia. There are businesses who are already manufacturing and selling Kava pharmaceutical products like liquid drops and capsules – there is even kava-flavoured food and candy. Online marketplaces like Amazon are actively holding these and products we may not imagine exist,” Mr Ali said.

“While kava is considered a Pacific Crop, grown in many Pacific Islands Countries, and in Hawaii, we have recently learned that it is being successfully grown in Florida in the United States, and that this production will increase in time. As the Pacific Community, we need to also fast track the work on the protection of kava, and in particular the geographical indications to protect kava as a Pacific commodity, for the benefit of our smallholder kava farmers who depend on this crop for their livelihoods.

“As we look towards creating derivatives and value addition from kava, intellectual property issues need to be front and centre of our consideration.

“In this regard, we need adequate protection of our traditional knowledge and geographical origin in relation to kava, in order to ensure that the Pacific does not lose out — with kava and kava products being misappropriated,” Mr Ali added.

He said in the pursuit to explore the potential of kava, safety, standardisation, and quality control are critical aspects that policymakers and stakeholders should address diligently.

“Our responsibility is to ensure that any product originating from kava meets the highest standards of safety and efficacy.

“This has been the highest priority for the Fiji Government,” Mr Ali said.

The scoping study will explore value adding of kava for export into the European market under the EU Pacific Economic Partnership Agreement.

The initiative is spearheaded by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

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