PIF HQ, Suva, Tuesday 3 February 2022— The first meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum’s Kava Working Group Meeting has endorsed Vanuatu CEO of the Primary Producers Authority Timothy Tumukon as Chair. Vice-Chair is Fiji’s Principal Economist, Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Deepika Singh.
The Kava Working Group will guide the development of the Regional Kava Strategy, aimed at ensuring industry growth and identity protections for the ‘Green Gold’ of the Blue Pacific.
Speaking to Pacific officials across governments, technical agencies and the kava industry, Pacific Islands Forum Director for Programmes and Initiatives Zarak Khan opened with condolences to the people of the Kingdom of Tonga and assured them of the Secretariat’s support and prayers..
Noting the importance of ownership by people of the Pacific, Director Khan told the virtual session the strategy will be shaped by “inclusive consultation at all levels”.
He said there are data gaps, highlighted by the Pacific Community (SPC) information brief on Pacific kava production, but “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.”
For Fiji, kava exports in 2021 were valued at around FJD$34million, and in Vanuatu, at around FJD$40million.
“For this growing industry as a whole, reliable data is needed to inform public policy, allocation of resources, where to invest, and as well as future projections,” Director Khan told the meeting. “With adequate policies and frameworks we will ensure that Kava can change the economic landscape of the Pacific Island Countries.”
The Regional Kava Strategy will support generating income growth and benefits for Pacific industry, as well as fostering, research and development opportunities, and business competitiveness.
“The development of the regional strategy is timely for the kava producing nations in the Pacific to consolidate their efforts and take advantage of the emerging markets in the region and beyond the Pacific rim, said the Chairperson. “I welcome the opportunity to serve our Pacific interests for the future of our Pacific kava, generating income, opportunities, economic potential and improving our people’s livelihoods.”
The Working Group acknowledges the commercialisation of the importation of kava to Australia on 1 December 2021. This will provide economic opportunities for Pacific Kava producing countries to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2022 working group meeting follows the first Pacific Regional Kava Conference in October 2021, as well as other initiatives late last year including training sessions on the protection of kava, in particular the Geographical Indications (GIs) for Kava, delivered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
The Kava Working Group aims to deliver a Strategy for consideration and endorsement out of session by Forum Trade Ministers in 2022. — ENDS