Remarks by the Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dr Filimon Manoni
Pacific Regional Conference on Kava
Delivered on 27 October 2021
Honorable James Bule, Minister for Tourism, Trade, Commerce and Ni-Vanuatu Business of Vanuatu
Director General of Pacific Community, Dr. Stuart Minchin
Our Co-organizer representatives from PHAMA+, ITC, OACPS and the EU
Excellencies and Senior Trade and Agriculture Officials
Private Sector and Kava stakeholders
Ladies and Gentlemen
May I take this opportunity on behalf of the Secretary General to acknowledge the invitation of the Government of Vanuatu to provide a few remarks to mark what looks to be an exciting three days of ‘talanoa’or ‘storian’ on a topic that is at the heart of our Blue Pacific Continent.
This Pacific KAVA conference comes at an important juncture. Like other regions across the world building back economies from the impact of the pandemic is very much the focus. It should be no different for our Blue Pacific Continent. Our Leaders are focussed on solutions, sustainability and resilience.
The KAVA sector provides a key opportunity in this regard. We are here today supporting a United Approach to KAVA, wan ples wan KAVA theme It will not be easy. We all know too well the experiences and misfortunes of the past – we are resilient on our zeal for a united approach on developing effective solutions. The Wan ples, wan KAVA theme is in alignment with the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent on the region’s ongoing commitment to work as a collective, in organising ourselves as one collective to address our common challenges, and leveraging on our collective strength – as a region for a successful post-COVID 19 economic recovery.
And it is that collective strength that is driving this important milestone moment, today. In July, our Forum Trade Ministers acknowledged the importance of KAVA in the region by endorsing the Concept to develop a Regional KAVA Development Strategy. Forum Island Countries are going to inform and shape that strategy. It will respond to their challenges. It will identify a range of regional actions and approaches to leverage support for your national efforts.
We must not overlook the impact of the EU KAVA ban that led to the loss of livelihoods for over 3,000 Pacific KAVA producers and an estimated USD$200m/year at the height of the industry to the world from the Pacific region. We must come together as stakeholders and have a unified approach to tackling these practical challenges the Pacific KAVA industry faces and ensure we don’t face the same market access disruptions again. Many thought that the EU KAVA ban would be fatal to the Pacific KAVA industry, however, through the resilience of our KAVA producers and the determination of our Pacific Ambassadors in Brussels ably led by Vanuatu, we were able to overcome this obstacle and recommence market access into the EU. This experience highlights the critical importance of a Regional KAVA Strategy.
I wish to also inform the participants that the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in partnership with PIFS, SPC, PHAMA+ have jointly organized an awareness building training for all stakeholders involved in the KAVA sector to learn more on how to protect KAVA as the Pacific’s’ Green Gold which commenced on 6 October till 17 November 2021
The tradition of KAVA is one that begins with a durable and hardy crop which has transformed from a medicinal and cultural icon to an economic life saver for entire communities across our vast region. In the same manner, I see your innovative thinking and practical solutions being gathered through this meeting and infusing the Regional KAVA Development Strategy. I look forward to a transformational outcome, one that ensures the commercial viability of a thriving KAVA industry driven by the resource owners as rights owners. This will help protect the interests of our kava producers and exporters at regional and international levels.
I wish you well in your deliberations and look forward to the recommendations and way forward that would emanate from this meeting.
Vinaka vaka levu, malo au’pito, faafeitai lava, tankiu tumas.
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