Statement by Director Programmes and Initiatives at the 1st Kava Working Group Meeting

Statement delivered by Zarak Khan, Director Programmes and Initiatives, Pacific Islands Forum

1st Kava Working Group Meeting

27 January 2022

Senior Officials;

Representatives from technical agencies

Representatives from the kava industry

Ladies and Gentlemen.

On behalf of the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, may I take this opportunity to share our heartfelt condolences to the people of the Kingdom of Tonga and assure them   of the Secretariat’s unwavering support and prayers as we go through these hard times together.

We also take this opportunity to thank you for availing yourselves for this first Kava Working Group Meeting, which we all agree is an important one. As a collective, we are here to lead and guide the development of our region’s Kava Strategy, working together with diverse stakeholders. This is a Strategy that will be owned and developed by our Pacific people –  through inclusive consultations at all levels.

Although there are data gaps as highlighted by SPC in its information brief on Pacific kava production, we all know that kava holds a cultural significance to our Pacific way of life and heritage, as well as its contribution to our formal and informal sector. In Fiji for example, the Fiji Bureau of Statistics reports kava exports in 2021 were around FJD$34million, whilst in Vanuatu this was around FJD$40million. For this growing industry as a whole, reliable data is needed to inform public policy, allocation of resources, to extrapolate investment opportunities, and as well as make future projections that will support the development of the Pacific Kava industry.

The role of this Working Group is to support the Secretariat and our partners in developing the Pacific Regional Kava Strategy. Kava is considered as the “Pacific’s Green Gold” and with adequate policies and frameworks we will ensure that Kava can change the economic landscape of the Pacific Island Countries.

In developing the Pacific Regional Kava Strategy, I look forward to Members views and guidance in ensuring there is alignment to the Pacific Aid for Trade Strategy 2020-2025 in mobilising resources to support its implementation and the  2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent  In particular to the Thematic Area relating to “Resources and Economic Development” to enhance income generation, benefits, research and development and business competitiveness of the kava industry.

I understand fruitful interventions were made at the Regional Kava Conference in October 2021, as well as other important initiatives late last year, which included:

a. Protection of Kava, and in particular the Geographical Indications (GIs) for Kava.  I acknowledge the Capacity building support provided by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on GIs, Branding and Trademark to protect Kava as a Blue Pacific green gold commodity;

b. Progress in terms of the commencement of the pilot commercial export of kava to Australia announced in December 1st, 2021 and the first kava consignment to Australia early this month.  On this note, let me also acknowledge the Government of Australia for their support;

The nuancing of these important discussion into the Regional Kava Strategy would be ideal, and at the same time ensure that the Pacific Regional Kava Strategy is a living policy document that is able to mobilise resources to the collective priorities within the Kava Industry, including compliance to quality and standards requirements, infrastructure such as  upgrading of testing laboratories, data, market access, labelling and packaging; and protecting “KAVA” as a unique product and culture in the Pacific region.

In concluding let me thank you all once again for your valuable time. The Secretariat looks forward to working with the Chair and Members of the Working Group, including technical agencies to support the development of a Strategy that will be ready for endorsement in mid-2022 as per the directions of our Trade Ministers.

I wish you well in your deliberations.

Thank you.




Share Now: