SUNBIZ

7% Gap To Fill In Kava Export

Fiji’s kava exports to the USA has marked a gradual increase in the past four years, earning $32 million for last year, accounting for two thirds of the all exports, he said.
30 Sep 2020 10:56
7% Gap To Fill In Kava Export
Left: United States of America’s ambassador to Fiji Joseph Cella and Kava Korp owner and chief executive officer John Sanday during the Fiji Forward Kava workshop in Suva on September 29, 2020.Photo: Frederica Elbourne

The Fiji kava market needs to bridge a seven per cent gap this year to meet the rising demand for kava in the United States of America.

To do this, farmers need to be more innovative with their methods of farming.

The revelation yesterday followed an announcement that kava alone made up two-thirds of Fiji’s exports to the USA last year.

Investment Fiji’s export adviser Shaneel Nair made the remarks at the Fiji Forward Kava workshop in Suva.

The workshop, hosted by the USA embassy, convened 24 key figures from the kava industry to discuss ways of advancing the industry, in what was a first of two sessions on the topic.

“Americans of all background have a growing thirst for kava,” USA ambassador Joseph Cella said.

Fiji’s kava exports to the USA has marked a gradual increase in the past four years, earning $32 million for last year, accounting for two thirds of the all exports, he said.

There are an estimated 180 kava bars throughout the USA.

Stakeholders will continue talks over how the Michigan State University could assist Fijian yaqona growers.

Representatives present at the discussions included US-based Kavalytics chief executive officer Tyler Blythe, Fiji Kava general manager sales George Kotobalavu, Kava Korp chief executive officer John Sanday and Green Gold Kava managing director Praveen Narayan.

Fiji Kava

Fiji Kava nurseries – yet to be built – are expected to meet part of the lack of demand.

Mr Kotobalavu said there was a need for more awareness among local kava farmers over the need to thoroughly clean the crop after harvest, before it is prepared for consumption.

“Raising the bar to international standards is something the local market needs to be made aware of,” he said.

Fiji Kava’s tea bags are in production, Mr Kotobalavu.

Fiji exported just over 328,000 kilogrammes of kava last year, valued at over $32 million.

Kava saves lives

Kava has saved lives, Kava Korp owner and chief executive officer John Sanday told the high level group of kava stakeholders.

The self-confessed drug addict and alcoholic said kava helped him overcome his demons.

“Kava business has heled put food on the table,” Mr Sanday said.

“I have continued to stay in the industry as it serves my financial strength.

“Subsequently, I’ve invested more into the trade.

“I’ve also received a lot of responses from people who say kava saved their lives.”

Destination US kava bar

Kava Korp exports mainly to the US, in particular the kava bar market, Mr Sanday said.

“We are slowly trying to get into the regional markets, and also starting our entry into the local domestic market,” he said.

While the varying price change makes for a competitive market, the biggest challenge for Fiji’s estimated 30 exporters was the contest from Vanuatu, Mr Sanday said.

“They are very big and dominate the US market,” he said.

“The emerging competition is from the Solomon Islands – they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

Value adding

The success of Fiji’s kava export hinged on evolving the kava sector into value added products, Mr Sanday said.

“There is potential for it to grow bigger – we just have to continue to produce good quality kava, so that we can grow our market share in the US,” he said.

“Farmers need to be more innovative at ground level, so it can match us, amd market it at a better price overseas.”

kava mint lollies in Suva stores is one such example, he said.

“It gives you the kava effect,” Mr Sanday said.

“We’d like to do more of those kind of new products; a few of those are in the pipeline.

“We want to start producing new products.”

Kava Korp is working to increase its presence in the American kava bar market, Mr Sanday said.

Quality control

Farmers must continue to focus on improving the quality of kava, he said.

Kava Korp is also in the business of teaching farmers to plant different varieties in different lots, to make it easier to separate and differentiate varieties.

“In Fiji, the practice is to plant them altogether mixed, which can be challenging when specific orders come from overseas markets,” Mr Sanday said.

“Farmers need to start get innovative at ground level, so it can match us, and we can buy it off them and market it at a better price overseas.”

Kava Korp is working to increase its presence in the American kava bar market, Mr Sanday said.

Farmers must continue to focus on improving the quality of kava, he said.

Kava Korp is also in the business of teaching farmers to plant different varieties in different lots, to make it easier to separate and differentiate varieties.

“In Fiji, the practice is to plant them altogether mixed, which can be challenging when specific orders come from overseas markets,” Mr Sanday said.

Feedback: frederica.elbourne@fijisun.com.fj

Fijisun E-edition
Total Excellium
Subscribe-to-Newspaper
Fiji Sun Instagram
Subscribe-to-Newspaper