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Can kava become a big export earner?

| PNG Business News

PORT MORESBY - Minister for International Trade and Investment, Richard Maru, wants to see the establishment and commercialisation of the kava industry in Papua New Guinea.

Minister Maru expressed his enthusiasm after learning from Fijians who attended the recent World Indigenous Business Forum in Port Moresby that the demand for kava in Fiji and the Pacific had outgrown supply.

“The cultivation and sale of kava both in domestic markets and as a processed export product is an important source of income for thousands of smallholder farmers and their families across the Pacific,” Maru said.

“Green liquid, dried and powdered kava has progressed from a traditional and customary beverage over the years to a source of community livelihoods, and now a business for the pharmaceutical industry and social gatherings.

“The commodity is known to have medicinal capabilities including a relaxant. Because of its benefits and the removal of trade restrictions in many countries, the demand for kava has increased and thousands of smallholder farmers across the region are now engaged in its production.

“The commodity has become one of the main sources of economic importance to many Pacific Island countries and as a significant contributor to GDP, foreign exchange earnings, and balance of payments through exports for some countries,” Maru said.

According to a recent report by the Pacific Horticultural & Agricultural Market Access Program, in Fiji alone one in eight rural households are involved in kava cultivation. A further 3,000 households earn an income through kava trade and retail operations.

In Vanuatu, an estimated 30,000 households are involved in kava cultivation with another 3,000 earning an income from trade and retail operations.

Fijian and Vanuatu kava exports are each valued at over K100 million annually to markets in the Pacific Islands and in New Zealand, Europe and the United States.

The bulk of this trade is associated with selling kava as a beverage, with a growing quantity being exported as an ingredient for nutraceutical and pharmaceutical products.

Kava’s increasing price has created local and overseas investment opportunities for the cultivation and propagation of kava by local communities across the region. The global market expected to exceed K750 billion by 2026.

“PNG has the potential to become the biggest producer of kava in the world if we establish kava as an industry and multi-crop with kava planted under the cocoa trees to fully utilise the land,” said Maru. “This is one industry that is ready to boom.”


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Michael Dom

Kava is good. Kavakava is people.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Kava has wreaked havoc among Aboriginal communities in the Top End.

"Concerns about the health effects of heavy kava use have been raised in Australia since the late 1980s, and more recently in the Pacific.

"Research to date demonstrates that kava use may cause kava dermopathy, raised liver enzymes, nausea and weight loss in a dose dependent fashion.

Kava use has been associated with a range of other negative effects such as poor general health, red eyes, low motivation, seizures and heart disease.

"Kava was introduced to Arnhem Land in 1982, following a cultural exchange between the Yolgnu people and a Fijian community. It was thought that kava may provide an alternative to alcohol, reduce alcohol related harm and facilitate fellowship and social cohesion.

"A considerable amount of research into the use of kava in Arnhem Land communities was conducted between 1987 and 2006; since 2006 there has been no published research.

"Research into the prevalence and pattern of kava use demonstrates that between its introduction and 2002 the proportion of people using kava in kava-using communities increased as did the amount of kava consumed by drinkers.

"In some studies between 70% and 80% of males in kava-using communities were kava drinkers. Furthermore kava consumption was in excess of the level at which harms are thought to occur.

"The high prevalence of heavy kava use has led to a decline in community activity, cultural activity, community cleanliness and participation in employment. Research has identified significant economic impacts of kava on communities."

What do you reckon, Michael? A good idea or another mindless money spinner?

Michael Dom

I commenced my agriculture research career in 2003 by conducting chemical characterisation (chemotyping) of the national kava germplasm, which was held at Kerevat Station, tested along with the popular cultivar Madang Short, from samples grown at various locations in the country.

The technical report was submitted as part of the ACNARS NARI cadetship graduation requirement and finally given the nod for submission in 2006. Forwarding the submitted version to Keith Jackson, if anyone is interested.

Dom M. 2007. Assessment of Kavalactones in Kava, (Piper methysticum Forst. f.) Cultivars of Papua New Guinea PNG Journal of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, 1:11-17.

Michael's paper is five pages plus stats etc. Drop me a comment if you'd like it forwarded to you - KJ

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