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Domestic Market Dominates Kava IndustryIn Fiji

Despite the increasing Kava export trade, the domestic market still dominates the industry. This is according to the  Fiji Kava Value Chain Analysis Report which was launched on Thursday by
16 Jun 2018 11:00
Domestic Market Dominates Kava IndustryIn Fiji
Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and Acting Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management and Meteorological Services Mereseini Vuniwaqa (middle), Australian High Commissioner John Feakes (middle) with Ministry of Agriculture staff on June 14, 2018. Photo: Simione Haranavanua

Despite the increasing Kava export trade, the domestic market still dominates the industry.

This is according to the  Fiji Kava Value Chain Analysis Report which was launched on Thursday by the Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and Acting Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management and Meteorological Services Mereseini Vuniwaqa .

The report highlighted that the domestic market functions well, channeling kava from remote rural areas, mostly in the outer islands, to the main urban centres.

“Most of the kava is sold to consumers through vendors in the municipal markets and specialty kava shops in either raw or powdered form, the report says.

“Fiji has experienced severe shortages of kava since Tropical Cyclone Winston in February 2016, exacerbated by a general shortage and strong demand for kava throughout the Pacific Island countries.

“Consequently prices have soared over the last two years to unprecedented levels and this made it difficult for the exporters.

“Over the last decades, Fiji’s exports of kava averaged 218 tonnes per annum, valued at $6.6 million.

“Exports grew steadily from 2007 until 2012, reaching 300 tonnes per annum, but have been erractic since then due to climatic events, including droughts and cyclones.

“Fiji imported on average 186 tonnes of kava per annum over the last 10 years.

“Imports were more than 200 tonnes during five of the last 10 years.

“However, over the last three years import volumes have been significantly lower with Vanuatu being the source of almost all imports.

“Since 2012 kava export prices have almost doubled and now average around $55/kg.

“Export prices in the United States of America market are consistently well above prices in other destinations.

Kava contribution

“Kava makes a significant contribution to rural livelihoods in some parts of Fiji, particularly on the outer islands where there are limited other opportunities, and is also important in cultural and social dimesions.

“The domestic marketing pathway begins with around 10,400 kava growers who sell mostly dried kava for cash payment in the village or provincial town markets.

“While some is used within the rural communities to meet social obligations.

“However, the majority of the kava is washed and sun-dried and packed in sacks or bales and transported by road and inter-island shipping to the major urban centres where it is sold to processors, wholesalers and retailers.

“The processors pound and package kava for retail sale.

“Some processors are also exporters who export either raw or processed forms.”

 The analysis is the first comprehensive study carried out for the kava sector and was supported by the Australian and New Zealand-funded Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Programme in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture.

Mrs Vuniwaqa said agriculture is the backbone of the Fijian economy.

“Farming has always played a pivotal role in our nation’s development, growth and economic stability.

“The Fijian Government very much values the presence of our kava farmers here today.

“Without your sweat and dedication to your trade, there would be no kava export, no economic activity driven by this key crop, and no global familiarity with the yaqona (kava) that Fiji has become famous for.

“More than 70 per cent of our rural communities rely on kava for their employment as a consistent source of income. Meanwhile, it’s about far more than just the economic factor.

“Yaqona holds a sacred place in the social and cultural lives of all Fijians; it is a national drink that is enjoyed across the country, because all of us, no matter who we are or where we come from, can come together in friendship over a bowl of grog.

“Although kava has been grown in Fiji for centuries, it has only been in the recent past that production statistics have been recorded based on the transition of kava from subsistence to cash crop.

“Reflecting the increased demand for kava in the local and overseas markets, commercial production has consistently increased from a low of about 900 tonnes in the 1990s to 9,000 tonnes in 2017.

“Kava exports were valued at $19million in 2017 and together, I’m confident we can increase that figure looking ahead.

“Because there is a lot of opportunity out there, kava is becoming a favorite drink in markets around the world, and Fijian kava is well positioned to take advantage of those emerging market opportunities.”

The findings of this analysis indicate that kava growing is a very profitable activity; with many growers planting at least a few hundred plants in their food gardens to generate modest amounts of cash by harvesting a few plants at a time when money is required. The findings show that the total gross income from kava sales amount to around $320million, of which 92 per cent comes from domestic sales and eight per cent from exports.

It is encouraging to note that a detailed analysis of gender and social inclusion is also referenced in this report. And while the results show that only two per cent of registered kava growers are women, the feedback from some of the women interviewed by the team carrying out the analysis is a clear indication that women are becoming more confident of competing in the kava sector and are also determined to benefit from the current high prices of kava in the local and international markets.

It is encouraging to read the stories of women like Vani Naucukidi, Kuini Naivuki, Dike Tawake and Uma Sapra who are involved in various parts of the value chain.

“As the Fijian Government makes strides to bringing the whole of the Fijian economy into the fold of a dynamic 21st century economy, this report stands as proof of our commitment to helping our kava farmers yield the fruits of this unprecedented prosperity.  And it stands as proof of our dedication to helping you evolve, giving you the tools to succeed alongside Fiji as a whole.”

Feedback:   maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj 

 



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