New Kava Business Ventures Launching in Fiji!

New Kava Business Ventures Launching in Fiji!Aloha, kava lovers! I am excited to bring news of three kava-centric business ventures that just launched in Fiji that are dedicated to expanding the market for Fijian kava worldwide! Fiji’s reputation for high-quality kava precedes it among the kava-loving community, where many find it to have a smoother, less biting flavor than Vanuatu kava while sacrificing none of kava’s pleasurable properties. However, surprising though it may be, few Fijian kava sellers have found a way to peddle their products directly to the international market, outside the few tourists who come upon Fiji’s local kava scene. Strict bans on kava, notably in the EU and Australia, have carved a divot into the profits local Fijians could have been making from kava, and have subjected many South Pacific countries to undue economic hardship from the early 2000s up to as recently as this year.

Luckily, those dark days seem to be receding ever faster behind us, dear readers! One of the omens of better days ahead for the kava market in Fiji is the recent announcement of three new Fijian business ventures centered around the production, branding, and international export of homegrown Fijian kava! Woohoo!

The first bit of news I want to share with you concerns a new Fiji company called South Pacific Elixirs Limited. Operating out of the region of Ovalau with a $130,000 grant from the Fijian government, South Pacific Elixirs will soon start producing a kava supplement beverage made from locally grown kava root. Officials hope that export of this new product will boost the economy of Ovalau, a highland region that relies on kava farming for a big portion of its GDP. Although the drink processing facility is currently located in Australia, the owners soon hope to establish a processing facility in Fiji. They cited this project as an opportunity to educate kava farmers about best growing and harvesting practices, and also to identity kava strains that are appropriate for export.

The beverage, called Taki Mai from a Fijian phrase meaning “serve me now”, combines an extract of pure freeze-dried kava root reconstituted with filtered water and either pineapple, mango, or guava juice. According to the site, its kava has a smooth, almost milky taste that blends well with water and lacks the bitter elements of, say, Vanuatu kavas. Furthermore, when you buy Taki Mai drinks, you’re getting a single-origin kava beverage: unlike many other bottled kava drinks, which are made from a blend of different kava strains, here you know you’re getting a pure Fijian kava straight from the small highland farmers of Ovalau, who directly profit from your purchase. Even cooler is that South Pacific Elixirs has partnered with the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, to develop standardized cold-water extraction and total kavalactone testing methods for their kava supplements. As their FAQ section states, “the aim was to create a kava beverage that used traditional, authentic ways to deliver a consistent and predictable relaxation effect with every serving.” That makes me want to go out and order some right now!

Next we have David Gilmour—the entrepeneur who founded the Fiji Water company and also runs the Wakaya Club and Spa—jumping on the kava business bandwagon with a new locally grown Fiji kava he plans to export to the world market. Gilmour is already the proprietor of organic pink ginger and turmeric farmed from the Wakaya highlands; this new kava product looks set to be the third in his trifecta of organic Wakaya Origins herbal supplements, and will be locally sourced from several regions of Fiji and processed at Wakaya to remove stems, leaves, and root peel. Wakaya Origins kava supplements were originally sold only in Fijian cities, but are slated to be available on the world market this month.

Finally, a brief piece from the Fiji Times Online caught my eye with news that kava growers in the region of Kadavu, Fiji, are making plans in concert with the Kadavu Provincial Council to brand and sell Kadavu kava abroad! According to Provincial Council Chairman Ratu Seci, kava (yaquona in Fijian) is a prime source of GDP in Kadavu, along with taro. Though he did not name names, the chairman also mentioned that a few international kava vendors are in the habit of labeling their kava “Kadavu kava” when it is not actually from Kadavu. Tsk tsk! Then, I suppose that goes to show just what a reputation Kadavu kava has in Fiji, and that reputation is soon to expand to the global stage once Kadavu starts exporting its excellent kava. I wish good luck to all three Fijian kava business ventures, and look forward to sampling their kava in the near future!

Mahalo,

Kava Guru

REFERENCES

“Kava Supplement Boosts Local Economy”. Fiji Times Online. http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=275729.

Valemei, Ropate. “New Kava Product”. Fiji Times Online. http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=277824.

Naleba, Mere. “Council to Concentrate on Product Branding”. Fiji Times Online. http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=284711.

Joy of Kava Coming out of Malaita

buy kavaIs it possible that the export of kava from the South Pacific is moving and growing beyond its current trade centers? It appears as though it might be! North Malaita of the Solomon Islands has sent batches of kava from two of their northern kava farms to Vanuatu for testing, and if the test comes back with the right information then Malaita can become a member of the kava export group [3].

I cannot tell you how much all of my being is jittering with excitement! If Malaita’s plan goes through this means that the kava trade is growing and farmers of kava are reaping the benefits in these regions – places that have traditionally been suffering from a lack of export interest from abroad. Malaita is a mountainous and unexploited tropical island in the South Pacific – with the largest population out of the Solomon Islands. Given the size of Malaita’s populace, export agreements like those surrounding the export of kava could prove to be incredibly beneficial to the island’s people [4].

According to Noel Roposo – the chief field officer of the marketing unit in the agricultural planning division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) – the samples were sent to the Republic of Vanuatu for a potentially valuable laboratory testing [3].

What exactly is being tested for? It’s not quite clear – there is not much information currently available, but the results of the test are to be returned to MAL in the near future – so we will probably have more information for you then! As Roposo says, “At the moment, we are awaiting response from Vanuatu, before we can see whether we can take the matter to the next level” [3].

However, I have a hunch that it has to do with ensuring compliance with “The Kava Act” – a body of law that was enacted to ensure that the safety and other regulatory conditions of kava coming out of Vanuatu are respected [2]. In 2002 the Vanuatan government enacted The Kava Act to regulate the sales and cultivation of kava – it was brought about in response to the accusations that kava ingestion was leading to hepatotoxicity [1].

It’s probably safe to assume then that the Malaita kava is being sent to Vanuatu to ensure that the strains of kava coming from the northern farms are in compliance with those legal standards. Additionally, some strains of kava – such as Tudei kava – have been implicated in the hepatotoxicity cases as a possible cause of the issue [1].   So, it would seem that the Vanuatu laboratories are going to be testing the Malaita kava to ensure its strain is pure and of an export-worthy kind.

Currently the South Pacific regions that dominate the kava export market are Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga – collectively contributing over US $200 million to the South Pacific economies through their well-established kava farms [5]. Thankfully, there is a strong community mentality amongst the islands and they are helping others like Malaita gain their stake in the kava export market as well – over all, contributing to the fiscal health of the South Pacific.

It’s incredible how kava has been pretty much unheard of on the Internet in any major news or broadcast circles and then this story surfaces – a report about the ongoing growth and expansion of the kava export trade. It’s truly wonderful, and I think it was completely worth the wait!

Mahalo,

Kava Guru

Sources:

1. INSIDER T.V. “New Science May Boost Kava Market”.

2. Lebot and Patricia Simeoni. “Identification of factors determining kavalactone content and chemotype in Kava (Piper methysticum)”.

3. Soloman Star. “MAL sends Mala Kava for lab test in Vanuatu”.

4. Wikipedia. “Malaita”.

5. World Trade Organization. “The Pacific Island Nations: Toward Shared Representation