Analysis: Fiji, the Value of Vuvale

Kava production is fast becoming a key industry for several Pacific is­land countries
25 Feb 2019 11:08
Analysis: Fiji, the Value of Vuvale
Saud Minam.

Vuvale, it means “we are fam­ily”.

And it was one of the major themes during Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s recent visit to Fiji and the University of South Pacific.

Vuvale is important in Fiji where leaders are embracing Australia’s renewed focus and strategy on the Pacific region.

“Kava production is fast becoming a key industry for several Pacific is­land countries.”

A stable Pacific region, with Aus­tralia as a strong ally, will help at­tract foreign capital and create lo­cal job opportunities critical in the Pacific. In fact, no matter where in the world you are, many socio-eco­nomic problems can be lessened if everyone who is willing is given an opportunity to work.

Fiji is likely to see tangible benefits of Australia’s larger role in the Pa­cific, both in the short and longer term.

Intriguingly (I’m sure for those outside the Pacific) among sporting and cultural initiatives, one of the more immediate benefits is the op­portunity to export kava.

Kava production is fast becoming a key industry for several Pacific island countries including Fiji, Va­nuatu, Samoa and Tonga, so the Australian government’s announce­ment to consider a plan to relax re­strictions on kava imports into the country is most welcome.

In Fiji, kava production now con­stitutes 30 per cent of total agricul­tural output from a meagre 8 per cent just five years ago. In the US, the proliferation of kava is making many ask whether this is the ‘new coffee’.

Opening up new markets will gen­erate additional income and em­ployment, bring in foreign currency and support tens of thousands of people in the Pacific who are de­pendent on the kava trade for their livelihood.

Support and stability

The Australian announcement follows in the footsteps of New Zealand’s commitment to provide NZ$13.5 million (FJ$19.6m) over four years to support the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) program. Under the PHAMA program, both the Australian and New Zealand government are partnering with governments in Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa to develop national kava quality standards and establish kava nurseries.

Australia’s new collaborative ap­proach to Pacific development is supported by both sides of politics. This reduces political risks and helps drive regional stability – both important from a business perspec­tive.

Australia will also bring a strong mentoring role to the Pacific, by building capacity and modernising institutions; both of which will be good for business. After all, coopera­tion and understanding are funda­mental to families.

Saud Minam is the ANZ Bank Country Head of Fiji. This report was published in ANZ’s Bluenotes.

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