Rayalu: Annual kava exports have bounced back

More than 70 stakeholders of the kava industry, including growers, traders and exporters, converged at the Southern Cross Hotel in Suva this week for a two-and-a-half-day workshop.

Opening the event yesterday, the Ministry of Agriculture’s Deputy Permanent Secretary and Chief Economist Vatimi Rayalu acknowledged and thanked kava growers for continuing to keep the sector “alive”.

“You are the primary source of materials necessary to keep the industry alive. Thank you for keeping this sector alive. The commitment you make to growing kava has resulted in the successful exports of your produce and the jobs created in the sector for economic development,” he said.

He said while earnings from Fiji’s annual kava exports had bounced back over the last few years, the challenge for the agriculture sector was to increase non-sugar exports by $100million and reduce imports of fruits and vegetables by $80million by the year 2020.

“This workshop provides a platform for dialogue and better understanding of issues relating to agriculture trade, production and exports and in finding ways to address market access issues.”

Mr Rayalu also urged ministry officials to listen to farmers and make the effort to acquire firsthand knowledge from them, saying this was an issue highlighted in a report of the World Bank reform of the Ministry of Agriculture.

“I know there are officials here and I think that message is for you, to listen to the farmers because they are the ones dirtying their hands so it’s advisable and good to listen to those that are doing it and get firsthand knowledge of their experience. It will be good for us in the long run,” he said.

Sessions on Tuesday involved discussions about best practice for planting, growing and harvesting kava; and current and future opportunities for trading in domestic and international markets.

Members of the team that conducted the analysis presented the findings of the kava value chain analysis to participants on Wednesday.

Field trips were also organised with participants visiting Agro Marketing Authority, Biotech Fiji Limited at Wainibuku to learn about the production of high quality kava in tissue culture form in a laboratory, Lami Kava, Sai Yee Foods and the Institute of Applied Sciences at the University of the South Pacific for a range of tests on kava quality and chemical composition.

The training workshops will culminate in the launch of the Kava Value Chain Analysis report this evening at the Fiji Museum.

For further information, contact Losalini Leweniqila at l.leweniqila@phama.biz or on +679 9957 593

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